Concerns are mounting over the rise of education scams in South Asia, with dubious agents exploiting unsuspecting students and workers in countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. These agents are charging exorbitant fees for visa appointments, which should be free. The UK’s ‘The Observer’ newspaper has recently conducted an investigation that sheds light on this troubling issue.
Operating in various parts of South Asia, these unscrupulous brokers are promoting biometric appointments on social media messaging services and demanding fees that can reach up to GBP 800. Pakistan seems to be at the center of this problem, with a significant increase in the abuse of the visa appointment system in the past year.
Rakesh Ranjan, South Asia coordinator for the migrant workers’ program at the UK-based Institute for Human Rights and Business, emphasized the severity of the issue, saying, “It is a massive issue. It all adds to the debt people pay to come to the UK.” Ranjan himself experienced this problem when he sought a visa from New Delhi. An agent quoted him an astonishing GBP 500, excluding government fees, promising assistance with document arrangements and appointment bookings. Many individuals are unaware that they are overpaying, often relying on agents due to limited internet access.
For individuals planning to stay in the UK for more than six months or short-term visitors from specific countries, an in-person appointment in their home country is mandatory to provide fingerprints and a photograph.
“We take all attempts to misuse the visa application appointment system exceptionally seriously. We have not experienced this type or scale of abuse in any other UKVI [UK Visas and Immigration] locations and have been working closely with the UK Home Office to combat this abuse,” said a spokesperson for VFS Global, which provides consular services for 70 governments, including the UK.
The UK Home Office has also taken decisive measures to address the “abuse of the visa appointment booking process” by “unauthorized agents” in South Asia, highlighting the seriousness of the issue.
More detail via Economic Times here… ( Image via Economic Times )