There are so many people in B.C. scamming Canada’s foreign student-visa program – from bogus students to shady schools – that authorities can only investigate about five per cent of the cases, according to an internal government report obtained by CanWest News Service.

“It is impossible to actively pursue all the cases … with the current resourcing levels assigned to the project,” warned an August 2006 report prepared by the Canada Border Services Agency.

The number of foreign students admitted to B.C. on student visas has nearly doubled over the past decade, from just 22,000 in 1995 to 43,000 in 2005.

The report stated the vast majority of students are genuine.

But the agency has also identified “several hundred cases of alleged fraud” in B.C. in recent years – people with no intention of studying who simply use the visa as a way into the country.

If the CBSA can prove that someone is in the country illegally, it can then seek to have that person deported. But the report noted that the number of fraud cases is so high that “it is realistically expected that approximately five per cent … can be effectively pursued.”

As of last August, said the report, the CBSA had just three enforcement officers and one intelligence analyst assigned to work through a backlog of more than 550 student-fraud cases in B.C.

CBSA spokeswoman Paula Shore said student-visa cases are generally given lower priority than those involving national security or criminal activity.

One of the problems in combatting student-visa fraud, according to the CBSA report, is that while immigration officers have the power to place conditions on foreign students to attend school, they often don’t.

“The effect of this is that there is no requirement that a student actually attend school despite the fact that the individual is in Canada to study,” the report stated.

While most B.C. schools are innocent victims of fraud – admitting foreign students who simply never show up for class – the CBSA report stated others are “visa mills … whose sole purpose is to facilitate the issuance of study permits”.

Vancouver Sun


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