Just 44% of Indian student visa applications assessed since January have been granted, a fall from 2015’s overall acceptance rate of 49%, according to the statistics published by INZ’s Mumbai Area Office.
“Approval rates remain volatile due to continued high levels of fraud across the market”
In contrast, the latest comparable government statistics show that in Australia, 87% of Indian student visa applications assessed in the latter half of 2015 were accepted.
India provides the largest source of student visa applications processed by the Mumbai Area Office. It also handles applications from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan.
Since the start of the year, 64% of Sri Lankan, 45% of Nepalese and 33% of Bhutanese student visa applications have been approved. Bangladeshi students had the lowest visa approval rate, at just 22%. In that period, the office decided 12,001 international student visa applications.
According to INZ, the approval rates in each of these markets “reflect the relative ease or difficulties of verifying information across the respective countries, and the level of fraud and misrepresentation present”.
“Changes in English language assessment (Rule 18) led to a general increase in the quality of applicants; however approval rates remain volatile due to continued high levels of fraud across the market,” it added.
Meanwhile, more detailed figures obtained by the New Zealand Herald under the Official Information Act show that of the 20,887 Indian student visa applications received over the last 10 months, 10,863 were declined.
Of these 10,863 applications that were turned down, more than 90% were lodged by lawyers or unlicensed education agents.
Offshore agencies are not required to be licensed in order to legally provide advice related to student visa applications, but some do voluntarily undergo a licensing programme, and INZ is currently running a campaign in India to encourage people hoping to obtain a visa to use a licensed advisor.
“We have been well aware of these fraudulent practices [for a long time]”
An investigation earlier this year by INZ revealed “significant, organised financial document fraud” among some education agents and bank managers in international student applications from Hyderabad, India.
Further information released under freedom of information legislation highlighted that INZ’s Mumbai Area Office is on the lookout for fraudulent student applications from India, concluding: “This tempo of fraud is a significant threat to NZ’s immigration integrity, and reflects a number of wider issues with the Indian student market”.
Widespread fraud among unscrupulous agents is an open secret in India, according to Naveen Chopra, chairman of The Chopras, one of the country’s largest education consultancies.
“We have been well aware of these fraudulent practices [for a long time],” he told The PIE News.
However, he added that part of the problem stems from “unrealistic [immigration] rules that are not in sync with real life scenarios”, such as the requirement for students to demonstrate they have funds to pay for the entire duration of the course.
“This is not in sync with the reality as most people will not have such liquid funds,” he said. “Financial assessments needs to be more holistic.”