AN underground file-forging business has come to light around foreign consulates, with some forgers coaxing visa applicants to purchase fake files to obtain visas - a practice that could put them at risk of restrictions on going abroad.

A fake company business license and personal income certificate, which are necessary in visa applications required by some foreign consulates, are available at 300 yuan (US$47.58) to 500 yuan. Some agents peddle software to produce a large volume of forgeries, Shanghai Daily found.

But the use of fake files risks short-term restrictions on going abroad and a refusal by some countries to issue a visa, police warn.

The file-forging business came to light after a woman was sentenced to one year in prison for forging files for her customers to obtain visas from the Italian Consulate in Shanghai last month.

The woman, surnamed Xu, 50, head of a local consulting corporation, told prosecutors she purchased software from peddlers around the consulates to forge the files for her customers.

Although she was caught after Italian Consulate officials later found problems and notified police, a batch of so-called visa agents can often be seen doing business with visa applicants, despite repeated warnings from consulates telling them not to trust small, unlicensed agencies.

'Agent' forges many files

A Wuhan-based agent surnamed Zhang told Shanghai Daily that he could forge various files to help applicants get their visas faster. He charged 300 yuan for forging a company business license and another 200 yuan for job certificate with a seal and a personal income certificate.

"All you have to do is to provide me with a company name, address and its legal representative, which you can easily find on a government website," said Zhang. "Give your office telephone number to the consulate officials as the company's contact number, so you can tell them anything you want."

Another agent told Shanghai Daily that they could also provide the software used by Xu to forge files - but they were only computer samples of various certificates and licenses on which the agents made modifications.

But according to a local licensed visa company, the tricks aren't so likely to work since consulate officials will be checking their files carefully.

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