Government-approved UK visa advisers jailed

- Posted in United Kingdom by Visa Bureauon 17 May 2012

The West London-based couple, Vijay and Bhawna Sorthia, allegedly earned more than £1 million from a scam that helped 166 clients illicitly obtain a UK visa.

During an 18 month period between 2008 and 2010, the couple allegedly charged more than 160 clients between £3,000 and £5,000 for manufactured documents which would prove they were highly skilled migrants when in fact, most were already in the UK on student visas or temporary visas.

Under new UK immigration laws, salary thresholds must be met to qualify for residency or further visas which will allow foreign nationals to remain in the country. As many will not meet the new requirements, the Sorthias used as many as 70 fake companies to provide clients with pay slips and wage documents to prove they were earning much more.

Upon their arrest in 2010, the arresting UK Border Agency (UKBA) officers found £330,000 in cash as well as documents listing the details of clients they had helped.

The couple, who based their scam, known as Migration Gurus, from a small office in North West London, were accredited advisers with the Offices of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) which is officially part of the Home Office and news of their arrest will come as a further embarrassment to a department fraught with difficulties.

Mr Sorthia, who came to the UK from India in 2000 on a student visa and then gained his own work permit illegally in 2004, was sentenced to 10 years while Mrs Sorthia, who was officially only employed as a cleaner at the office, was sentenced to 15 months; both will likely face deportation once their sentences have been served.

Judge Andrew McDowall said Mr Sorthia 'undermined' UK immigration laws and helped to 'erode public confidence' in lawful migration.

Immigration officials suspect the Sorthias may have helped many more people than the 166 confirmed to illegally remain or enter the UK.

"They ran a sophisticated scam designed to help people who would otherwise have no right to be here stay in the UK," said Senior UKBA Investigating Officer Robert Coxhead. "The amount of cash found at their home illustrates how lucrative this was, and we will now being the process of stripping them of those assets using the Proceeds of Crime Act."

UKBA officials have already managed to convict 15 of the Sorthia's clients; of those, 14 have already been deported.

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.