More than 150 Indian students have been told by the Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA) to leave the country.
The students say they were unaware of the forgeries and insist they were cheated by their immigration consultancy in India who provided them with the document.
Many who received the eviction letters are now embarrassed to come forward – living in a Western country is seen as a matter of prestige by many Indian families, especially in the state of Punjab, where Dimple K hails from.
“My mind is dark. I can’t move forward or backward,” Dimple said. She has been living in Canada on a student visa since 2017.
In a similar case four years ago, 129 Indian students in the US were arrested for enrolling in a fake university.
Dimple, who comes from a middle-class family in Jalandhar district, has a postgraduate science degree and unsuccessfully tried to get a job in India.
The hope of a better life with her husband led her to apply for a student visa in Canada.
She learned about an immigration office – which police say has been closed for seven months – and used it to get a Canadian visa.
“The agency told me that one of the colleges had accepted my papers and gave me the letter of admission they said was from the university,” she said.
Dimple paid the agency 1.2 million rupees ($14,525; £11,970). The amount was intended to cover her tuition fees. The agency also gave her a certificate to prove she had money to cover living expenses in Canada.
But Dimple said she was informed by the agency within two days of her arrival in Canada that there had been a strike at her university. They advised her to apply to another university, which she did.
In 2019, Dimple completed her computer networking degree and received her work permit. But in May last year, a year after she applied for permanent residency, she was told by Canadian authorities that her application contained a forged document.
In January, she was served with an exclusion order and told to leave Canada and not return for the next five years.
She has challenged the order in a federal court in Canada and her lawyer Jaswant Singh Mangat is representing more than three dozen students who find themselves in a similar situation.
In most of these cases, he says, bogus letters of admission were issued for exorbitant fees and used to obtain visas.
The Immigration Department discovered the forgeries when the students later applied for permanent residency.
The CBSA told the BBC it does not comment on individual cases. But it added that last year they discovered a scheme whereby “unsubsidized private college programs led foreign students to a postgraduate work permit (for $25,000) for the sole purpose of acquiring permanent residency”.
“This investigation led to the decision by the federal and provincial governments on June 7, 2022, to tighten the criteria for awarding postgraduate work permits. The investigation focused on 11 colleges involved in the fraud,” it said.
The collapse of the scam has shattered many dreams and many of those affected have wondered what they can do.
“We can’t take legal action because we don’t have any evidence against the de [Indian] agency that prepared our documents,” said Chamandeep Singh, a student also from Punjab.
Inderjit Singh, meanwhile, insisted that he would not return to India saying that the forged documents were not his fault.
Experts called on the Indian authorities to crack down on immigration agencies that mislead students.
They also urged applicants to be aware of such scams and to look for registered immigration agents.
“This is your money, your life, your future,” lawyer Mangat warned applicants.
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