Fake documents flood Canadian visa office in India
'Wall Of Shame'
Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, February 09, 2009
OTTAWA – In the Canadian visa office in the northwestern Indian city of Chandigarh, one wall is plastered with everything from fake death certificates and doctors' notes to bank statements and transcripts from nonexistent colleges.
Known to the staff as the “wall of shame,” it stands as a daily reminder of what Immigration Minister Jason Kenney portrays as the tough job the mission's five immigration officers have in trying to separate legitimate applicants for visitors' visas to Canada from those backed by phony claims and documents.
Mr. Kenney said he was “floored” to discover the extent and frequency of the fraud perpetrated in Chandigarh by unscrupulous document vendors, counterfeit artists and fake immigration consultants who charge people thousands of dollars to help put together visas that get rejected by officers who are becoming increasingly wise to the fakery. The going rate is between $12,000 and $15,000, officials say.
At the Chandigarh mission in the first nine months of 2008, more people had their applications for temporary visas to Canada rejected than accepted. The split was 9,781 rejected, and 8,641 accepted — a rejection rate of 56%, according to immigration department figures. By contrast, the rejection rate in New Delhi, where more than 53,000 applications were processed during that period, was only 19%.
Those who advocate making it easier for Indians to travel to Canada don't make light of the problems in Chandigarh, which, they agree, damage the integrity of the Canadian immigration system. However, they say the government should respond by opening more immigration offices and putting more people on the ground.
But in an interview, Mr. Kenney flatly rejected calls to beef up immigration resources in India, saying he is determined to tackle the problem without adding more officers.
New Delhi and Chandigarh are the only visa processing centres in India, although there are nine centres spread around the country where people can drop off applications.
Temporary visas are designed for those wanting to travel to Canada for a defined period, such as students, tourists and business representatives, people wanting to attend weddings and funerals, or those wanting to care for an ailing loved one. To get the visa, applicants must provide evidence they are going to Canada for the purpose stated in their application, and that they will be returning to India.
This means filing supporting documents that say, for example, the person has had a bank account in India for many years, that the person owns property, or that the person has strong family ties that will bring him or her back.
The staff in Chandigarh has uncovered fake documents by doing such things as getting in touch with banks in India named in the applications and learning the applicants had only recently opened bank accounts, or calling funeral homes in Canada and learning the person who signed a letter confirming the death and time and place of the funeral did not work for that company. There also have been cases of applicants providing fake letters of support from members of the Canadian Parliament.
Parliament of Canada