BBC investigates Indian agency’s fraud in student visa process

BBC reveals the investigation proceeds carried out through Panorama for over a year now that some of the agencies like Studentway are deeply involved in student visa fraud every year for thousands of students helping to get their visa extended in UK.

Studentway is an immigration consultancy based in Southall, West London assists students in getting their student visa extended in UK. When approached by undercover students seeking visa extension director of Studentway Varinder Bajarh said, “Someone else will sit the exam for you. But you will have to have your photo taken there to prove you were present.” Studentway would charge £500 from each student to get them cleared the exam.

Undercover footage taken inside a government approved exam centre in East London apparently showed candidates being replaced by fake sitters to answer written and oral papers. The candidates submitted their answers to a secure terminal, while the real candidates were called to be photographed as “proof” of taking the test. These government approved exams for visa application called TOEIC were set up by ETS, one of the nation’s highly reputed English language testing firm.

BBC investigates Indian agency’s fraud in student visa process

BBC investigates Indian agency’s fraud in student visa process

The undercover student who appeared at the test centre was set up on a computer only to have a fake sitter to appear for the exam instead of her. The footage shows all the students at the centre were assigned a fake sitter and the real students are standing beside the sitters. Undercover student was asked to wait for a photograph to be clicked as a proof of attending the exam.

A week later the undercover appeared for a similar exam that was a MCQ written exam. The classroom footage shows shocking revelations of the invigilators reading out aloud all the answers to the questions helping all the students to finish two-hour question set in just 7 minutes time. When the student again approached Studentway, she was given a TOEIC certificate that stated she has passed the test for visa application.

If this wasn’t enough, Studentway was selling fake bank details to show the applicant student had enough funds in his account to stay in UK. Non-EU students face immigration restriction on amount of paid work, hence they need to show sufficient creditworthiness to be able to cover their stay and living cost in UK. Studentway had a solution wherein the agency would find a person in India with the same name as the applicant’s and use his/her bank details, statements for the visa process and that way the verification wouldn’t face a problem in the process if not carried out deeply.

The government said it had suspended two colleges identified by Panorama and all further English language tests done through ETS in the UK. Home secretary Theresa May stated the government was taking action to change an immigration system “which was out of control when we inherited it”, and 700 colleges had already been stopped from bringing students in from outside the EU.

More details can be found on