IRCC says 40,000-plus ‘vulnerable’ Afghans resettled; international student study fraud targeted

By Cristin Schmitz

Law360 Canada (October 30, 2023, 4:46 PM EDT) -- Canada has delivered on the Liberal government’s commitment to resettle at least 40,000 “vulnerable” Afghans — including women judges, lawyers, police and other female leaders — since the repressive Taliban regime took back control of Afghanistan, Ottawa says.    

On Oct. 30, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marc Miller said more than 40,000 vulnerable Afghans have arrived here since August 2021, including Afghan translators and others who for more than two decades helped Canadian officials in Kabul, as well as the Canadian Armed Forces during deployments in Kabul and Kandahar.

“The horrors faced in Afghanistan at the hands of the Taliban are ongoing, and the impacts to the rights and freedoms of the Afghan people, specifically women and girls, knows no bounds,” Miller said in a statement. “While welcoming over 40,000 Afghans to Canada is a significant achievement, Canada will continue to bring Afghans to safety,” he said. “Canadians, resettlement organizations and their front-line staff have gone above and beyond to welcome Afghans, and we are thankful for their ongoing support.”

Immigration Minister Marc Miller

Immigration Minister Marc Miller

Canada’s Afghanistan resettlement commitment is one of the largest, per capita in the world — second only to that of the United States in overall numbers, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said.

Against the backdrop of the government’s investigation into organized fraudulent schemes selling fake documentation to possibly hundreds of foreign nationals seeking study permits, Miller unveiled in a separate Oct. 27 announcement his department’s “plans to implement several measures aimed at strengthening” Canada’s International Student Program and at better protecting genuine international students from fraud.

Permits to study in Canada can be a step along the way to post-graduate work permits and permanent residency in Canada.

“We will continue to improve Canada’s International Student Program by protecting students and weeding out those who try to take advantage of them,” Miller said.

He said the changes to be implemented include:
  • Starting Dec. 1, 2023, post-secondary “designated learning institutions” will be required to confirm every applicant’s letter of acceptance directly with IRCC;
  • “In time for the fall 2024 semester, IRCC will adopt a ‘recognized institution’ framework to benefit post-secondary designated learning institutions that set a higher standard for services, support and outcomes for international students. These ... will benefit, for example, from the priority processing of study permits for applicants who plan to attend their school;” and
  • “In the coming months, IRCC will complete an assessment of Post-Graduation Work Permit Program criteria and begin introducing reforms to better calibrate it to meet the needs of the Canadian labour market, as well as regional and Francophone immigration goals.”

The new “enhanced verification process” aims to protect prospective students from letter‑of‑acceptance fraud and to help them avoid similar problems that some students faced earlier this year as a result of fraud investigations, the federal government said. “It will also ensure that study permits are issued based only on genuine letters of acceptance.”

IRCC said “through these measures, we are taking action against nefarious actors who have preyed on genuine students for financial gain by identifying every fraudulent letter of acceptance soon after it is submitted. Institutions that demonstrate strong support for international students will be recognized and their applicants will move to the front of the line for processing, and we will be able to better select and retain those students that are best suited to meet the needs of Canada’s economy and immigration goals.”

The department said the “important reforms mark the initial changes identified through the review of the International Student Program, as well as the broader engagement initiative, An Immigration System for Canada’s Future. This includes our ongoing work with institutions, provinces and territories, and organizations representing Canada’s colleges and universities to better detect fraud and uphold the integrity of our immigration programs.”

The government noted that following investigations into fraudulent admissions letters, an IRCC task force struck last June began working with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to review the cases of international students and graduates who had fraudulent study permits. “The goal of this work was to prevent genuine students from facing removal from Canada,” IRCC said. “Of the 103 cases reviewed by October 12, 2023, 63 were found to be genuine students and 40 were not. The Genuine Students Impacted by Fraud Taskforce is aware of additional cases that have not yet been reviewed, as individuals are still awaiting decisions from the Immigration and Refugee Board. If an exclusion order is issued in these cases, the cases may be reviewed by the taskforce in the future.”

On June 23, 2023, the CBSA announced charges against Brijesh Mishra for immigration-related offences. He was identified by victims as one of the central figures involved in defrauding students, the government said. “IRCC will continue to work diligently with the CBSA to identify and act against unscrupulous actors who take advantage of genuine students.”

Last June the federal government temporarily halted removals of, and granted “preliminary” temporary residence permits to — foreign students and graduates ordered to leave the country because they were given permits to study here based on letters of acceptance from Canadian colleges and universities that were discovered to be fraudulent by IRCC.

IRCC said Canada’s international education sector generates more than $22 billion in economic activity annually, greater than Canada’s exports of auto parts, lumber or aircraft. The sector supports more than 200,000 jobs in Canada. The temporary drop in international students in 2020, related to the global pandemic, resulted in a loss of more than $7 billion for Canada’s gross domestic product that year, IRCC said.

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