If you Google ‘visa and immigration consultants in India’, you will be surprised at the number of service providers that pop up. Obviously, assisting those who wish to study or work abroad secure relevant visas is big business! But going by consumer complaints, not everyone delivers quality service and, given that consultancy charges are steep, those who get deficient services could well suffer huge financial losses. The silver lining, however, is that consumer courts have intervened to help consumers in such situations recover their money.
In Genesis Immigration Vs Arun Williams (RP No 3795 of 2011, decided on February 22, 2012), for instance, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission upheld the decision of the lower consumer courts, directing Genesis Immigration and Param Consultants to refund the complainant R2,67,558 along with 6% interest and also pay Rs 50,000 as compensation. The complainant in this case had hired the services of the two consultants to get admission in a college in Australia and also the relevant student visa. On getting an offer letter for admission to a college, he had deposited R2,67,000 as admission fee and paid R50,000 for the service rendered by the agencies. He was to pay another R50,000 after obtaining the visa. However, he could not leave for Australia as his visa application was not even submitted to the high commission. And he was told that the college would refund the fee only if visa application was rejected, and so he was not eligible for a refund of the fee either. Holding the services of the consultants to be deficient, the consumer court concluded that they were jointly and severally liable.
In Avtar Singh Randhawa Vs Worldwide Immigration Consultancy Services (RP NO 45 of 2007, decided on September 22, 2011) where the complainant had paid R40,000 including the visa fee of R15,000 and $800 for getting the relevant visa to migrate to Canada, the National Consumer Commission agreed with the lower consumer courts that there was no deficiency on the part of the service provider as the complainant’s application was still pending before the Canadian High Commission and had not been rejected. However, it observed that 10 years had passed since the consumer made plans to migrate to Canada and the outcome of the visa application was still uncertain and during the interim period, even the criteria for immigration may have changed. It, therefore, directed the agency to pay back R25,000 along with 6% interest calculated from the date of deposit till the date of payment.
Ameet Khatkar: I work in the hospitality sector. I applied for a Canadian work visa in October last year. As my visa application had been rejected thrice, I hired an international company to help me. I paid R10,000 to get registered with them — they saw all my papers and said they would take up my application and if I failed to get the visa on account of their fault, they would refund my money. This time too, my application was rejected. The company, however, is refusing to return my money. How do I get back my money?
Send a formal letter to the company and ask them for a refund. You can quote the cases that I have mentioned above in support of your demand. If they fail to respond, lodge a complaint with the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum.