The students, from India, Nepal and Iran, were studying in either undergraduate or postgraduate courses at reputed universities including Cardiff, Sunderland, Anglia Ruskin and Newcastle.
The students say they paid a staggering £13,000 to £15,000 to the consultant Alpesh Patel of Aaryas Careers Ltd based in Middlesex, to help them explore various options of extending their visa including further study or employment as skilled graduates.
Patel allegedly coaxed the students into applying for employment. The Home Office has now sent them letters refusing the visa on the grounds of ‘deception’ and they now face a possible ban of applying for UK visas for 10 years.
One of them, an Indian girl from Africa who did her MBA from at a reputed university in the UK was allegedly sent on an interview by Patel to secure the Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) to apply for the Tier 2 visa.
“It was in a strange place with just a single desk in a huge hall. When I asked the interviewer about this, he said they have yet to set up their new office for which he is recruiting,” she said.
Over 30 students united after they shared a similar experience, with the list only growing.
“We checked the employer was accredited, so the Home Office letter was a shock. We then used their contact details available online and spoke to their HR. They had never heard of us,” said a young man who believes that the fraudsters used names of genuine companies.
Another postgrad student was discouraged from pursuing further studies. “I wanted to apply for a PhD, but Patel said that it’s almost impossible for Indians to get student visas in the UK and Tier 2 visa was my best option now.”
She has not yet informed her parents in India of her situation. “I am hoping that the outcome will change after our appeal or at least I get some of my money back.”
“We will be reminding students to show extreme caution when being offered advice – especially involving such large sums of money”
Patrick Cosh, deputy director of Cardiff University‘s international office, told The PIE News that the university was “deeply concerned by this scam” while stressing that such a case is extremely rare.
“We have already been in touch with our students and would encourage any Cardiff student in similar circumstances to contact student support at the University to seek further advice,” he said.
“We will also be reminding students to show extreme caution when being offered advice – especially involving such large sums of money and the potential damaging consequences involved.”
With cardboard placards scribbled with slogans demanding justice, some of those students impacted gathered outside the home of Patel in Hounslow West earlier this month demanding he refund their fees or find a possible solution.
Patel has refused to comment on the case.
“Such immigration consultants know they can easily slip through the law”, says Urvi Shah, an immigration lawyer at Vision Solicitors Limited in Middlesex.
“He has squarely laid the blame on the ‘employer’ for the fraudulent documents. They are likely hand in glove with him but how will you prove that?”
“Also he took a miniscule amount of the money as a bank transfer which he can justify as his consultancy fees. There is no proof of the cash component the students paid him. It’s simply their word against his,” said Shah who believes that such scams thrive on the vulnerabilities of international students.
The students have reported the matter to the police, reported online on Action Fraud, complained against OISC and explained in detail to the Home Office. Their case is now under judicial review at the Home Office.
• Names of the students have been withheld on request.