Reports suggest that agents had helped visa applicants acquire fake work experience documents and deposit the necessary funds to prove visa application finances.
Agentbee obtained copies of seven official police documents detailing the allegations, while The Hindu reported that the majority of the officers involved ran a consultancy business in Hyderabad.
“Information provided by the US Embassy alleges that education officers from at least seven different education agencies received thousands of rupees to provide aspiring students with false documents to support their U.S. student visa applications,” AgentBee noted.
“At least seven different educational agencies have received thousands of rupees to provide aspiring students with false documents”
The Times of India named Pavan Kumar Rao and another individual Kapil from Chaitanyapuri in Hyderabad as consultants involved.
Agent Sravan Kumar of Vellanki Overseas Education Advisors at Bagh Amberpet also provided fraudulent documents for Rs 50,000, the newspaper also revealed. The PIE tried to reach Vellanki for a comment.
President of the Association of Australian Education Representatives in India confirmed that two of the agencies involved are members of the association. “The matter is of concern to AAERI,” he said, adding that agency memberships have been suspended until police investigations are complete.
“If the police discover that the agencies were involved in the fraud, we will take further action,” he said.
The American International Recruitment Council has also launched its complaint process regarding three AIRC-certified agencies.
the United States Embassy decision to lodge a complaint with the the police, not just refusing the visa, is a “significant change on the ground”, added.
“Some of these applicants had their admission handled by the appointed Education Officers who may have assisted the students in preparing their visa documents. The police will decide if the officers were involved in creating or arranging the fraudulent documents. This may or may not be the case.
“The AAERI will soon be training its members on how to verify documents,” he added.
“These kinds of stories of blatant actors getting caught emerge every few years,” Intead CEO Ben Waxman told The PIE.
“This stuff is happening in the world of registrations and admissions. And when these stories come up, it gives a hard time to those who want to say “I told you so!” on the process of recruiting students by commission.
Waxman noted, however, that there are “tools in place in every industry to identify reliable and valuable services and avoid those who attempt to cheat the system.”
“University enrollment teams can develop strong, trustworthy global relationships to fuel their admissions pipeline. It takes time and diligence to forge these relationships. Those who reject international recruitment by commission make a poor service to their institutions,” he said.
Brian Whalen, executive director of the American International Recruitment Council, also said that such fraud is not acceptable.
“It hurts students and their families, education recruitment agencies and our educational institutions,” he said.
Maintaining quality standards that “benefit everyone involved in recruiting international students” is critical, Whalen continued.
“It is paramount to act within the framework of due process in these situations where a possible violation of the standards has occurred. The AIRC has already launched its complaint process based on news reports and people who submitted comments regarding three AIRC-certified agencies.
The AIRC’s complaints process is designed to be “fair, objective and thorough”, he stressed.
“The AIRC keeps all actions regarding its certification and complaints process confidential unless and until public notice of an outcome is required.
“Fortunately, these kinds of situations don’t happen often. However, when they do, we can all rely on the quality assurance processes that are in place to protect the interests of students. Our students and their families, our agencies, our institutions, and everyone involved in the important work of recruiting and enrolling international students deserve no less.
Using AgentBee’s global directory in late 2021, The PIE reported that institutions were severing ties with agencies after a number of issues including tax evasion, malpractice and deregistration of agents migration.
Stakeholders recalled that the submission of fraudulent documents is not a new phenomenon.
Ashish Fernando, Founder and CEO of iSchoolConnect, and Roopali Birman, Head of Consulting, said students and families fall prey to bogus and unethical educational agents and consultants, paying over $1,000 $1,500 for false financial and work experience certificates.
“The submission of fake work experience and bank documents to obtain student visas is nothing new,” they said in a joint statement to The PIE.
“Document forgery is a compliance and security issue for all countries involved, and it tarnishes the image of the student’s city and state.”
They explained that in 15 years they had witnessed “countless instances” of unethical behavior by officers in the Punjab and Hyderabad regions of India.
“Countries have stated unequivocally that students cannot be exonerated if caught providing false documents”
“Deceptive agents play with the emotions and careers of students for minor monetary gain. Aspirants should exercise caution and avoid falling into such promises. Countries have stated unequivocally that students cannot be exonerated s are caught providing false documents.
While it is “great” that embassy officials are working hard to bridge the gap, establishing the legitimacy of a document is a difficult task, they continued.
“Robust document verification technologies such as blockchain and digital IDs are increasingly being used to combat document fraud and make the system more secure. They are both cost effective and help preserve authenticity. The adoption of such technology by educational institutions will help establish a robust document verification process and deter individuals from engaging in unethical behavior.