Canada’s student visa system is under investigation by the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) following a string of abuses with the program, according to The Globe and Mail

The investigation is ongoing as the CBSA conducts a probe into 300 students. The probe has so far revealed that at least 10 people have attained student visas using fake acceptance letters from colleges and universities, some of whom are also involved in gangs and crime related activity. 

Earlier this year, Ottawa conducted a probe into 2,000 incredulous student visas and discovered that approximately 1,485 applicants had issued fake letters of admission into colleges and universities. The bulk of the fraudulent applicants involved came from India, China and Vietnam. 

It is now up to a task force, including the federal Immigration Department, to identify which students legitimately traveled to Canada to study and which ones are linked to fraud. Until the investigation is complete, Ottawa will halt the removals previously ordered to students who may have potentially been duped by the fake letters of admission. 

“The CBSA will continue to focus inland investigative resources on high-risk cases, with criminality and national security being the highest priorities,” said Guillaume Bérubé, a spokesman for the CBSA. 

“The CBSA is responsible for investigating alleged violations of the Customs Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), focusing on complex cases such as organized crime, and primarily targeting the organizers, facilitators and perpetrators of crimes that pose a threat to the integrity of Canada’s border legislation,” said Mr. Bérubé.

The scam initially came to the attention of CBSA in 2018 when a probe into the abuse of the student visa system revealed that such visas were being used by others as a means to get to Canada, only to join gangs.

Last month, Aaron McCrorie, vice-president of intelligence and enforcement for the CBSA, spoke with the House of Commons immigration committee where he expressed to MPs that the 2018 probe raised concerns that there was, “a pattern of individuals coming into Canada, potentially using the student visa process to join criminal gangs.”

Berubé said that there are CBSA criminal-investigation sections throughout every region in Canada and recently an arrest was made in the Pacific Region. Brijesh Mishra, an Indian education agent who was allegedly involved in fake college admission letters, was arrested while crossing the U.S.-Canada border and charged under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

His arrest led to protests from international students who are facing deportation for their alleged involvement with fake admission letters. The students claim that they applied under the assumption that the admission letters were genuine and only became aware that they were fake after applying to remain in Canada.