Visa Officers take Documents at Face Value

Where a visa officer relies on evidence received from sources other than an applicant, the applicant must be made aware of the information in the possession of the officer, and must be afforded an opportunity to respond to it. However, where all of the evidence relied upon by an officer is received by the applicant, then the officer is entitled to take the evidence at face value. The duty is on the applicant to explain any parts of the application that should not be taken at face value. This is a lesson that a recent student of Manav Rachna recently learned the hard way.

In Sodhi v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2010 FC 835, Mr. Sodhi had previously studied in Canada on a student visa which expired in 2004. He left the country in 2005. Between 2005 and 2007, he studied at an institution named Manav Rachna, which he maintained was affiliated with Ottawa’s Algonquin college.

In 2009, Mr. Sodhi’s application for a new student visa was rejected in part because the visa officer found that he had been studying at Algonquin College from 2005-2007 without a valid visa. This decision was based on transcripts from Algonquin college which showed that Mr. Sodhi had obtained credit for Algonquin College courses from 2005-2007.  His 2007 diploma stated “Ontario College Diploma”.

Based on this, the Visa Officer found that Mr. Sodhi had been studying in Canada illegally.

Upon hearing the news, Mr. Sodhi vehemently argued that this was not the case, and that Manav Rachna was simply strongly affiliated with Algonquin College.  He said that it was unreasonable for the officer to simply assume that he had studied at Algonquin College in Canada, and that he was denied procedural fairness because he was never asked about whether the schools were affiliated.

Madam Justice Mactavish disagreed, noting that it was perfectly reasonable for the Visa Officer to assume that Mr. Sodhi’s transcripts and a diploma from Algonquin College meant that he had studied there. As for procedural fairness, she noted that all of the evidence relied upon by the officer was received by Mr. Sodhi, and that the visa officer was under no obligation to assume that anything contained therein should not be taken at face value.

The message for applicants is clear: Do not include vague or misleading documents in your application with the expectation that an Immigration Officer will either figure it out, or even ask for clarification. As I previously noted here, applicants have one shot, and they should make it their best.

As for whether Manav Rachna is actually strongly affiliated with Algonquin College, here is a snippet from the Algonquin College website:

The Algonquin Animation Program is being offered in India through a partnership with the Manav Rachna International University where our program is offered as a four year degree with an articulation agreement for our students to continue on to get their Degree in Fine Arts – Animation.