VISA: The Department of Adult and Higher Education (DAHE) has notified all education consultancy and placement firms (ECPFs) to declare their involvement or assistance on visa applications that they forward to the Australian High Commission.

Many Bhutanese have been paying up to Nu 15,000 for ECPFs to find them colleges and universities in Australia, and other countries, and to aid them in processing the visa formalities.

It is pointed out in the notification that the department received a complaint on the issue from the foreign affairs ministry, after some Bhutanese – placed through ECPFs in Australia – were found to be working over the maximum permitted hours, last year.

The notification also states that the Australian High Commission has expressed concerns over the non-declaration of the participation of ECPFs in preparing visa application forms.

The commission has pointed out that not declaring participation is deemed to be providing misleading information, which can result in the visa being refused and a three-year ban.  It is added that the commission may refuse applications, and apply the ban on the ECPF, if it is found that it continues not to declare involvement.

DAHE director general, Tshewang Tandin, said the department could cancel the licenses of those ECPFs, if they continue to not declare their involvement.  He said that it was expected that all ECPFs be transparent, responsible, and accountable.

The director general also said that it had been conveyed to Australian officials that they could take action against ECPFs that disregard immigration requirements, if information of violations is provided.  However, no information has been shared by the Australian High Commission to date, he said.

Kuensel has learned that these are initial steps being taken by the Australian High Commission, in response to immigration violations by Bhutanese in Australia, last year.

The visas of eight Bhutanese – the dependents of students – were cancelled, and seven placed under review, last year, after they were found to be working for more than the stipulated 20 hours a week.

Australian immigration authorities are unlikely to consider reversing the cancellation of the eight visas, according to the Royal Bhutan Embassy in New Delhi, India.

Kuensel has also learned that the Australian High Commission is concerned about the number of visa applicants providing fake bank balances, and marriage certificates being issued for fake marriages, and of ECPFs assisting such applicants.

Between Nu 30-40 million is required for an applicant to be considered for a visa.

As a result, the commission likely wants to ensure it is aware of which ECPF has forwarded them a visa application, as it is aware of those that may have been violating immigration requirements.

The chances of the commission granting a visa is likely to be less if it is aware that an ECPF – which it is aware of not following requirements – has forwarded it an application.

By Gyalsten K Dorji