Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Canada wants crackdown on Indian immigration consultant
Jalandhar: Sandeep Ohri is a dashing 42-year-old who revels in zipping through the traffic chaos in his gleaming Mercedes, passing billboards touting him as the leading immigration consultant in Punjab state.
But Canadian officials see someone else: an extraordinarily brazen and successful scam artist in an industry rife with deceptive swindlers willing to provide applicants with a litany of sham documents — everything from fake airline tickets and doctored bank statements to forged letters from Canadian-based funeral homes.
Of the nearly 500 visa applications formally rejected this year, 228 come from Ohri and his firm, OGIC Immigration Consultants.
“This guy has a perfect record,” says David Manicom, head of the immigration section at the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi — not one of Ohri’s clients has been approved for a travel visa.
Over coffee last week Ohri was unrepentant.
He refused to acknowledge he did anything wrong by helping to file visa applications he knew contained fake bank statements.
“What have I done?” Ohri said. “I am just an adviser, a consultant.”
The 42-year-old father of two has been in business for 12 years and claims to have helped hundreds of prospective students and skilled workers secure travel visas to Canada and other western countries.
While Canada receives more immigrants from India than any other country, there are growing concerns within the Canadian mission here that local lawmakers and police are refusing to pursue criminal cases against the likes of Ohri.
For many immigration consultants here, business has never been better. They operate in a state with long-standing ties to Canada, albeit those ties are growing strained, some Canadian diplomats say, with the growing frequency of travel requests supported by fraudulent documents.
The six visa-section staff who work at Canada’s mission in Chandigarh, Punjab’s capital, review 40,000 visa applications a year from students, family members and prospective immigrants. While official statistics aren’t available, one senior Canadian diplomat estimated at least a quarter of those applications are refused because of fraud.