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A SPECIALIST integrity unit has been formed inside the Department of Immigration to deal with widespread fraud in the working holiday visa program, on which industries such as fruit growing depend.

More than 200 internet advertisements have been found offering to buy or sell documents allowing backpackers to claim they had worked in rural jobs without them leaving Sydney, and thus extend their working holiday visas. The standard fee is $400. So far, 64 visas have been cancelled over the fraud and at least 19 more are being reviewed.

One man, an Irish national, has been convicted of fraud. ”There’s been more than 100 fraudulent claims identified this financial year,” a spokeswoman for the department said. ”The answer is we don’t know [the full extent of the fraud]. At this stage it’s too early to determine and we will be looking at it over the next six months.”

The working holiday visa (subclass 417) allows people to extend their stay in Australia by a year if they can prove they have worked in a rural area for three months. Applications are lodged online but have been abused by people selling Australian business numbers linked to farms so backpackers can falsely claim they worked on farms.

”Second year visas for sale,” one ad read. ”Will email completed 1263 form and add your details to my books so you can gain second year visa with ease.”

Another ad offering similar services, posted on the Gumtree website on Saturday, had received more than 2000 hits by last night. Unlike visa scams targeting international students, mainly Indians, this fraud is used mainly by European visitors.

One backpacker told the Herald he had been offered the false documentation as soon as be arrived in Australia, by people staying at the same hostel.

”People told me about buying the documents – getting the numbers to put in,” he said. ”When I arrived here people said you can go there [to a farm] or you can buy. Everyone knows about it. It’s easy. All the people who are here know about that.”

The federal Opposition spokeswoman on immigration, Sharman Stone, said the widespread fraud reflected under-resourcing of the department.

Source  :  www.smh.com.au
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Foreign students could be forced to leave – Research your migration agent first

SCORES of foreign students, suspected of using bogus documents to support permanent residency applications, have been discovered by Federal Government migration fraud investigators.

More than 60 students, whose documents were initially accepted as genuine by the Government, will be forced to leave Australia if they are unable to prove their documents are authentic.

It is the latest indication that rorting in the lucrative $15.5 billion international education industry — the nation’s third-biggest export earner — is a serious problem, which could undermine the integrity of Australia’s education and immigration systems.

The students are suspected of using fake references from employers, which claim to show they have 900 hours’ work experience in a job related to their area of study.

Foreign students are required to provide evidence of 900 hours’ work experience to support their applications for permanent residency.

Sources in the international education industry have told The Age some students pay up to $20,000 to rogue college operators or middlemen, such as unscrupulous migration agents or education agents, to obtain fake paperwork.

Trades Recognition Australia (TRA) is the body nominated by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to assess skills, including those of foreign students. Under the Australian migration system, a successful skills assessment by TRA can be used by foreign students to support their permanent residency applications.

In the last financial year, TRA received 34,180 applications for skills assessment, about 10,000 of which were from foreign students. TRA initially accepted the documents of the students in question as genuine. But after the Federal Government received information suggesting their paperwork could be bogus, it sent letters to the students threatening to revoke their successful skills assessments if they did not prove their documents were authentic within 28 days.

More than 60 such letters have been sent to foreign students since the start of the year, with 48 sent last month alone.

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, which investigates matters relating to international education refuses to say how many students have already had successful skills assessments revoked.

“Disclosing departmental actions as part of quality control and fraud measure could adversely impact on the administration of the program,” the department said in a statement to The Age.

The students are believed to be either close to the expiry of their student visas or on bridging visas. Either way, they will be expected to leave the country within 28 days if they are unable to prove their documents are genuine.

The identification of students suspected of using bogus documents follows the discovery of an alleged racket uncovered by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship in March.

Three migration agents were allegedly providing fake documentation to support permanent residency applications for foreign students based on their claimed skills in a number of occupations, including cooking, hairdressing, horticulture work and car mechanics.

Investigations are continuing into possible offences relating to forgery and migration fraud, which carry penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Source  :  www.theage.com.au

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