It is around 10 am on Saturday. The office of an immigration firm located in SCO 16 in Phase 3B2 is abuzz with activity. Five persons are already in the office. Three of them have come from Tarn Taran district while two from Una, Himachal Pradesh.
After entering the office, the receptionist, a woman in her 30s, asked all the persons to wait for meeting the “counsellor” who shall guide the aspiring candidates and their kin on how they could apply for going abroad. Most of the staff members at the office are women in their mid-20s or mid-30s.
Sarbjeet Singh, 19, who came from Tarn Taran, said he wanted to go to Australia and came to Mohali after reading an advertisement in a vernacular newspaper. “I have a two-year gap in my studies as I joined my graduation by dropping two years after passing senior secondary class from Punjab School Education Board (PSEB). I read the advertisement that this immigration could help me in going to Australia despite a gap in my studies,” Sarbjeet said.
Sarbjeet’s father is a marginal farmer; he does not have enough money to fund his son’s trip. But the son is still exploring possibilities.
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Talking to Chandigarh Newsline, Sarabjeet said, “I have some financial constraints, but the firm shall also help me to arrange a loan from some financier. I told my father that I will take a loan and then repay it after I earn money in Australia.”
The receptionist calls Sarbjeet and asks him to go inside and meet the counsellor. “Take your papers with you and ask whatever you want to ask her. She is an experienced counsellor and she would be able to clear all your doubts,” the receptionist said.
Kulveer Singh, also from Tarn Taran, wants to go to Australia. He too has a three-year gap in his studies and believes that the immigration firm has very good counsellors who would help tackle his case successfully.
Kulveer claims that he had applied in the past too but could not go to Australia as there was a gap in his studies. He had given Rs 60,000 to a Ludhiana-based agent who is untraceable now.
Did he check the registration status of the immigration firm before coming to Mohali? Kulveer said, “My friend told me that there is no problem in Mohali and Chandigarh. I am aware of these people. I will take every step after thinking over it,” he said.
After half an hour, Sarbjeet comes out of the cabin and Kulveer goes inside. “They said that it would be a Rs 12 lakh package for one year, including one semester fees and my hostel rental in Australia. It is difficult for me. I will ask my father,” Sarbjeet said.
As the counselling session is on, two men from Amritsar came in the office. Kuljeet Singh, one of the men, starts arguing with the receptionist after she does not allow him to enter a cabin.
The owner of the firm, Lovepreet Singh, is sitting in the cabin. Kuljeet alleges that he had to take back his Rs 35,000 from the firm as his visa for Dubai was rejected. “It is my third visit to the office. I have to spend Rs 700 per visit. Whenever I come to the office, the receptionist always makes excuses and does not let me meet the owner of the firm,” he said.
Kuljeet alleges that whenever he demanded his money, the staff threatened to implicate him for misbehaving with the women employees. Kuljeet, however, did not lodge any police complaint.
Lovepreet Singh, however, claimed there was no pending amount of Kuljeet. He also denied that he threatened Kuljeet. Asked about the qualifications of the staff working in the firm, Lovepreet said that the counsellor was graduate.
“She has an eight-year experience in this field. We only take genuine cases,” he said.
He said that they sent many people to Canada and Australia on study visas. “We only take our processing fee which is nearly Rs 1 lakh for Australia and Rs 1.50 lakh for Canada. The fee varies. We always make all things clear to the candidates. Sometimes visas get rejected but it is not our fault,” he said.
However, Lovepreet’s immigration firm is not registered with the district administration. But he claims they have applied for the licence.