Open fraud with cooperative sourced financials in Nepal results in unusual growth in Australian student visas. I predict a fall as soon as this loop-hole is plugged.

Inclination of students from the Indian sub-continent (or lets say from South Asia) is more or less the same. Students have post study work/settlement as a goal and preference for an education destination is “whether we like it or not” influenced significantly by the pathway to work/settlement following the program of study. Not illegal at all. If a country offers the pathway, it is the sought after destination. Plain and simple.

However, there is one more influence on the student numbers (which is the focus of this blog) and this is the “loophole driven ease” with student visa. We have seen in the recent past that countries such as NZ benefitted when it allowed education providers to determine their own the English language proficiency test requirement and when it mandated a test, the numbers fell especially in the PTE sector. Just last year, Immigration NZ tightened another aspect of its regulation where it started emphasising on the accessibility and availability of the demonstrated funds during the study in NZ. It detected(and publicly released) that there were large number of students primarily from certain regions of India who had evidenced their financial ability through an education loan sanction letter which was either never utilised or was fake in itself. Immigration NZ took an extreme move to go through the lodged visa applications of even the students who had secured the visa and were in NZ and then deeming any genuine but utilised(disbursed) loan as violative of the visa condition and even made effort to deport such students. The student visa numbers have plummeted from India ever since, even though the “trumped” world offered NZ an opportunity to make inroads.

The point that I am making is that sudden spurt in student numbers is often a result of a loophole in the student visa system. This is more noticeable when other countries that are similar and from the same region have a different trend. The unusual spurt in numbers is the first alarm for the authorities to take corrective action and protect the industry including protecting the efforts being put in by genuine agencies of education providers.

The comparison of recent student visa applications from India with that from Nepal indicate that the two countries have have had totally different trends and my study of the reasons highlight one emerging fraud loophole.

  • Indian market for Australia has plateaued. The total number of student visa applications from India during 2016-17 was roughly the same as in 2015-16 (31021 compared to 30726). The growth in student visa numbers is solely due to a higher visa grant rate. However when we look at the student visa applications from Nepal for the same period, the numbers have almost doubled. Yes doubled from 9334 applications to 18218 applications. The granted visas too has jumped from 7759 to 14398 with a growth of 86%.
  • Indian market for Australian vocational sector experienced a decline of close to 50% during the 2016-17 over 2015-16 while during the same period it increased by over 50% for Nepal.
student-visa-granted-2017-06-30
Student visa grants to Nepalese nationals (offshore) over the last 10 years. Notice the trend.

So what is so unusual for Nepal that the market has grown so sharply while it has plateaued for India in the last 1-2 years? The immigration requirements for work or settlement has only tightened during the same period with changes to work permits and removal of several occupations from SOL.

  • The answer, my friend, is known to all.
    Over the last 1-2 years, Australian Government lowered its guard and has encouraged the trend. It is possibility that in the bid to have a world-wide policy and movement towards the online process, country specific restrictions were changed and this led to the advantage of those who wanted to abuse the system. Only because of fraud and complicity of certain banks, the same department only accepted funds demonstrated from two Nepalese banks for years. Reputed agencies and agent associations had lobbied tirelessly for expansion of the acceptable financial institutions to 7-8 from the 2 but that had not been considered despite assurances. Then suddenly in the last year, the mindset of policy makers changed and they realised that they had no business in identifying or recognising certain banks over others in a foreign land and thus came up with the universal worldwide policy of accepting all scheduled banks that are recognised by the national bank of that country. This meant that for Nepal, suddenly and without any consultation with any stake holders, the list of acceptable banks was increased from 2 to all 28 Banks. Yes, this happened.
  • The common online visa process, led to another loophole emerge. The student visa requirement is for the student “being able to demonstrate if asked” that they have one year funds with them. Nepal having been allotted a lower assessment level meant that technically for most institutions, the evidence of funds was not even required to be provided with the visa application but only provided “if asked”. This was a significant change from the practice earlier when the student visa applications was filed into the Australian High Commission in New Delhi and had all the attached bank statements. For years, I have sat through bi-annual briefings to institutions and agents by the same very department on Nepal where the presentation detailed high degree of fraud and the need for greater check. Thus, this policy change in Canberra, not just baffled me but almost all others in the industry. It was also a contrast to what applied in rest of the sub-continent.

Now let me share the current anatomy of fraud that in my opinion is the biggest reason for the sharp increase in visa applications to Australia. There are certain agencies complicit in this but that is not what I am focussing on here and it is for the department to identify them.

  1. The current student visa process requires institutions to assure themselves that the student has one year living and tuition fees. For this, institutions (and visa office at times) want the student to demonstrate that the funds are held in an acceptable bank (read it as one of the 28 banks).
  2. However there is no requirement that the funds have to be held in these banks for any set period of time and can thus be a recent deposit. Wherever there is a recent deposit, a source of that recent deposit may need to be provided “if asked”.

All good till now and makes sense.

  • Now to the fraud and how that takes place: The recent deposit in the acceptable bank is genuine funds. Mostly. However the funds often don’t belong to the student at all. To assure the education provider or the visa office that the recent large deposit is of the student, It is shown to have come from a cooperative bank account of the family and a “cooperative bank statement” is evidenced to the education provider as “source of the large deposit”. It is a known fact that the cooperative bank statements are not verifiable and very easy to cook. Cooperative banks don’t have cheque books or online statements and anyone can “for a small money” get any statement issued.
  • Yes, very easy to cook. Let me now share a few such cooked cooperative bank statements that we organised within days and in the name of individuals linked to the International education industry (including one in the name of the International manager at the Australian Universities). The purpose of organising the fakes was to prove to the institutions that the document that they had been accepting was so almost always fake. Following our sharing this, few Universities have stopped accepting such documents.

The sad truth is that this methodology of fraud is known to several education providers but they seem to accept the cooperative sourced (or demonstrated) funds held in an acceptable bank only because the Department of Immigration and Border Protection has a policy that doesn’t require it to be checked. Even the recent Agent Digest 6 September 2017 which went into details on emerging fraud and the need to verify the source of funds has no specific mention of the “cooperative sourced funds”. One may say that it is implied though.

I am certain that the department will look closely on these huge recent funds that get shown up in the acceptable bank. But how will it, when the online lodgement and the policy allows recent funds. If the immigration was to attempt verification then it would delay the process and lead to complaints. Then the department must consider that the policy does want funds to be available and accessible in Australia and such funds that are almost always not of the family but raised from the market for the purpose of the student visa will never be accessible and available in Australia during the study period. Only way forward will be to understand that there is a high likelihood of such funds being non-genuine and non-verifiable and thus simply not accept the recent deposits where the submitted paper trail leads it to a cooperative bank account.

And as I stated, certain officially contracted agencies are complicit by way of assisting students with such arrangements and anonymous phone calls to their offices can confirm that some of them even have a set fee to provide such assistance. Like always, a few bad apples spoil the whole lot. Time to get rid of them. Unless education providers stop chasing numbers for the greed by giving the reason that “the immigration allows and thus it is fine”, they too will get looped in when the loophole is plugged. There are certainly not as many genuine students in the market to lead to a doubling in nun bets and the market may experience a huge fall. Not too far in future

23 Comments

  1. Very interesting and true Ravi. To me it looks like a Greek Tragedy, where we can clearly see the end of the hero but the hero does not know it. Co-Operative Banks have played a very similar role in India also and now they are doing it in Nepal. I and you and some like minded can see it but others don’t want to see it because it benefits them and their concern is limited to numbers game. But if this hole is not plugged then the entire industry will be damaged. Hope good sense prevails and some quick remedial measures are adopted.

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  2. I heard that Nepalese students are very good and they don’t hop institutions and they complete the course and for this reason they are at a lower Assessment level. Isn’t it true?

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    1. Really. The Nepalese students are very much like the Indian students in their intent. When one has such high volumes, there will be excellent and good students while there will be many who are non-students disguised as students with other intentions.

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  3. One more question. Do you mean, that the students who you think have genuine access to funds and who have fulfilled the GTE requirements and who go to the best unis in Australia, do not change the course, uni or don’t breach the visa conditions? and those who use the above shown financials generally tend to breach the visa conditions? And, Is there any such report available with DIBP? Atleast what percentage of students breach visa conditions, is it based only on financials or is it based on their academic background, family background or social or cultural background or influence of friends or agents onshore?

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    1. I don’t have any such data and nor is it my role to collect the same. However I know that those students who have faked funds to reach Australia often are the ones who want to move to low cost courses, not attend classes as they are more dependent on any part time earnings for survival and thereafter often become easy baits for exploitative employers who often are of sub-continental origin.

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  4. And I know students who are from very rich families and they never completed the course and who spent money sent by their parents on things other than tuition and returned to home country as failures. I also know students who are from middle class families who studied hard , completed the course and well settled in their respective field. It is very hard to judge a person based on few worthless papers.

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  5. I believe that education institutions should focus more on Academic excellence, build better facilities, labs and further improve the quality of education and refrain from becoming Investigative agencies. Touch wood they have done an excellent job so far and I am proud to be an agent for Australian institutions.

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  6. Agree to the fact raised in this article Ravi Lochan sir. Great job. It is indeed an open secret in the Nepalese market. Fake co-operative statements as the evidence of source for large recent bank deposits is one major factor behind the surge in the number of visas from this market.

    However, there is also a sad part associated with this practice. This is being practiced not only by some dubious agents (as you have quoted some bad apples) but by almost all the agents doing business in Nepal. Be it a small and new agent, big domestic players or multinational agencies operating in this country. In reality, the big companies and the experienced ones are mainly behind these kind of activities. Because of their extensive experience in this sector, they are the one to find out the loopholes first and abuse the system. Small agents and the new ones do not have strong and large network with the universities and colleges in Australia and these kinds of agents are scrutinized more by the education institutions. Whereas, the big agents and the old ones are trusted in comparision. Also, most of the agents in this region rely on big agents and multinational agencies for placement of their students because they themselves do not have agency agreement in required number. Hence, if desired by industry leaders in this market, this practice can easily be reduced significantly. But again, who would like to cut down the pie before them when it is coming easy.

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  7. Comparison between the number of Visas issued for applicants from India and Nepal doesn’t make sense here as under the new SSVF policy – NEPAL lies way ahead of INDIA in Assessment Level 2 whereas INDIA is on Level 3.
    Risk Assessment of INDIA is way higher where certain Education providers don’t accept students from certain regions of INDIA whereas Nepalese students do not have such issues.
    I see this article as a JEALOUS EYE of an INDIAN agent where number of INDIAN Visas has considerably gone down.

    If I were to submit the FRAUD documents coming in from India – the documents you have posted would look like peanuts.

    You cannot term it as OPEN FRAUD to taint the Nepalese image – change the title – just talk about the loop holes.

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    1. 100% agreed ! Ravi himself is running a franchise in Nepal ! He should know but unfortunately the article is prejuducied .

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      1. True. I have a significant stake in the Nepal market and there is no reason for “jealousy”. Those who know me would know that I look for the long term sustenance of the industry and not short term gains. The entire effort is to maintain the market and anyone would know that doubling of numbers year after year is not only because there are genuine students.

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  8. Agents inside Nepal who have a huge name are often found to be indulged in these kinds of activities when comparing to small agents. Your writing does analyze a bad practice in creating FAKE documents for immigration visas but the very inside portrays a dark reality. The reality is that people are dying to go abroad, why ? It is because your some high status neighbor has went to Australia and settled while earning the family a fortune. The misconception of people here in Nepal that there are a lack of opportunities and a conception that once you are abroad, it opens door to a lot of possibilities are the factors that uplift these kind of activities. Let’s face it, in a country like Nepal only a very few people have an earning that can fund Australian education , what will the students who have been shown the “Australian Dream” do? What about the students who have been shown glamorous pictures of Australia when going for a counseling and their mind is treated as a blank canvas where the agent paints dreams and tries to show how life would be easy once in Australia. The child comes back home and when he has no money, he finds some from the market and as the DIBP does not allow students to claim their sources from a personal loan taken from some person, they tend to opt for these kind of activities.

    DIBP can never bring the phenomenon of supplying irrelevant documents for Australian education to an end as people will find one way or the other. But, the bigger question is : Who is more gulity? The student opting for a fake document just because they could not clarify their funds or those agents who show dreams of successful and happy life and encourage student to opt for these kind of activities of fraudulent document.

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    1. You are posing a larger question. Even in India, the demand for overseas education is not uniform and there is more from certain regions where there is a natural desire to travel overseas. Education as a pathway to work or settlement is well established and there is nothing wrong with this.

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  9. While making comment on something that addresses genuineness of financial institution, loop hole in policy made by experts and executed by professionals appointed by Australian high commission and intention of Nepalese students as a whole you should have given evidence that support your assumption. Assumptions are just opinions presented in decorative manner to fool a fool.

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  10. I feel Co-operative is just not a problem. Another fact is, you cannot compare Nepalese students are same as Indian, Its not same Nepalese are far hard worker than Indians and its true.
    About fake documentation, I don not have any idea about Indians but heard that they do so hugely. As an education agent I confirm yes Nepalese students are preparing such documents for visa, and its wrong. So, DIBP must set a time-frame or stop to accept any source of fund. the problem will be solve.
    If anyone seeing it and wishing to prove for genuine financial documents. It must be good to show more than 2-3 months in saving account before applying visa or Education loan from bank with collator property paper and deed paper, which have to made under Land Reform and Management of Nepal. (It will stop non genuine financial documents)

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  11. Dear Ravi,

    I have gone through your text and have some genuine concerns as to your fingers of partial understanding or no understanding on the source of Fund and GTE. in Nepal, there are many co-operatives and these co-operatives might have more fund and clients than the A class banks have . They are directly community based and they serve door to door banking service and collect the deposit accordingly . They also offer good interest and relaxed and timely loan facility. As a result, many small scale entrepreneurs , farmers and job holders have the fund access accounts and many of them might be promoters. If you have still no idea on this, I would like to invite you to Nepal and study the provision and reality ! To some extent , some co-operatives might be cheating just making the fake documents ; still out of this box, many of them are having the real transactions. So, your question and understanding on the co-operative fund transfer has the stigma on their reputations. All the students have submitted co-operative transfers are not fraudulent . Another part is ; many Nepalese students are found genuine and they have not changed the providers if they are counseled well about the fee structure , duration, and living expenses which the data base shows . But unfortunately, many consultants push them for university only convincing them that their visa rate is truly higher if they apply there . They are not given more options . GTE compliance includes several other factors rather than the issues you have shown as well . In my perception, the surge in the number of applications is not attributed to these issues only. In fact, Australia has been one of the favorite destinations for Nepalese students due to family circumstances, a number of VET and HE options, quality education and responsive policy of Aus Government . As a whole, Nepal came to the assessment level 2 should not be surprise to you I think if you have analyzed the Nepalese market holistically and risking factors and past records of the majority of Nepalese students .

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