UPEI sees increase in fraudulent international student applications
'It's a pretty rigorous system to make sure we have the qualified legitimate students'
The University of Prince Edward Island says it's seen an increase in fraudulent international student applications.
Jerry Wang, the director of recruitment and international admissions at UPEI says, he identified nearly 50 fraudulent applications in the 2017-2018 academic year.
Two years ago, he said, the university only had ten.
Wang attributes 60 per cent of the fake applications he sees to students with lower marks whose grades are altered to meet the acceptance requirements at the university.
"Maybe because they were not academically strong. So they want to study, but they don't have the academic foundation," he said.
'We take extra vigilance'
Wang attributes the rest of the fake applications to people trying to come to Canada illegally.
"For people who present fraudulent documents to try to get into another country, very often they're not serious students," he said.
"I guess they probably just want to work illegally. It's a much bigger topic than just studying."
But that trend doesn't reflect on the roughly 1,000 legitimate international students at UPEI, Wang said.
"The international students here at UPEI have added a lot to the community to make the community more vibrant, stronger and also richer."
But he said the work that it takes to filter out the fraudulent documents may delay those students who apply through the proper channels.
Wang said his 12 years of experience at UPEI have helped him spot fake documents, but he said identifying these applications adds a lot of extra work for himself and his colleagues.
While UPEI has provided the necessary supports — due to the increase in these applications, the university has had to make changes in how it processes international applications, Wang said.
"It's a lot of work because, first of all with all the documents we take extra vigilance. We have to be very careful reviewing the documents."
'It makes it look like it's authentic, but it's not'
Philip Belanger is the executive director for the council on articulations and transfer of New Brunswick (CATNB). The CATNB is a government agency which provides a link between post-secondary institutions and government in that province.
He explained the motivation to falsely apply. "You have those who say OK, I just want to take advantage of the opportunity to go to that country and do whatever I want ... So I [falsify] the document, I get through, I get my visa … and then once I'm in the country I can do what I want."
When asked how officials know the intent of the applicant is not to study, but rather just get in the country, Belanger said, "There are some stories that would lead to the interpretation that the intent might have been to illegally immigrate, such as being accepted by an institution and shortly after disappearing elsewhere unknown."
Belanger points to third party companies he refers to as "diploma mills" — to which fraudulent applicants pay money for a diploma or degree certificate. He said they exacerbate the problem.
"It makes it look like it's authentic, but it's not."
He said these companies create concerns among institutions and organizations across the country.
Immigration officials review university registrations
UPEI relies on Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for advice, Wang said.
In an email to CBC News, IRCC would not disclose whether there is a fraudulent application trend associated with any particular learning institution.
"Designated learning institutions (DLI's) are required to submit a compliance report to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada twice a year that verifies the academic and enrolment status of international students at their institution."
"The reports submitted by DLI's are reviewed after they are received and study permit holders who are no longer actively pursuing studies in Canada may be identified to the Canada Border Services Agency for possible enforcement action."
Wang said even if a fake application slips through the cracks and is accepted at a university, applicants still need to submit through IRCC to get their immigration documents.
"Through the different stations, it's a pretty rigorous system to make sure we have the qualified legitimate students," he said.