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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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The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said that from 1 January 2010, overseas students who require a new visa to complete their studies at another school or college will be exempt from paying the $540 student visa application charge.

Senator Evans said that although most students will be able to complete their studies on their existing student visa, some may need to enrol in a new course that finishes after their existing student visa expires and will require a new visa.

Twelve education providers have closed in 2009, affecting about 4,700 students. ‘In situations where an education provider can no longer offer a course, the government’s primary concern is the welfare of the student,’ Senator Evans said. ‘We understand that these situations are not the fault of the student and the introduction of a fee exemption will ensure they are not shouldered with an additional financial burden.

In the interim, students will be able to apply to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship for a refund of their visa application fee if they’ve been affected by the closure of an education provider in 2009 and have had to apply for a new student visa. Senator Evans said the government is also increasing the minimum financial requirements for overseas students to ensure they can meet their living costs while in Australia.

From 1 January 2010, prospective overseas students will need to demonstrate that they have access to at least $18000 a year to fund their living costs in Australia, instead of the current $12 000.

The new figure better reflects student costs in Australia and is consistent with information published for international students in Australian Education International’s (the international arm of DEEWR) ‘Study in Australia’ guide.

Living costs are one component of the financial requirements for a student visa. Students must also have sufficient funds for tuition fees, travel costs and costs of any dependents.

‘It is important that students understand these financial requirements are only the minimum amount required for a student visa,’ Senator Evans said.

‘International students can supplement their income through part-time work in Australia but the primary purpose of a student visa is to study and students should not rely on part-time work to meet their expenses.

‘Prospective students are encouraged to conduct their own research so they can make an informed decision about what study in Australia will cost.’

DIAC will also make an assessment of whether the funds demonstrated by students will be available to them while they are in Australia.

‘The Australian Government values international students and is determined to make sure they have a rewarding and successful study experience in Australia, without financial hardship,’ Senator Evans said.

The latest measures will be implemented through regulation change later this month subject to approval by Parliament and the Governor-General.

The changes will support the enhanced integrity measures for the student visa program announced in August this year. Those measures included:

  • upgrading the interview program to build a strong evidence base around fraud
  • removing or restricting eVisa access for some agents where there is evidence of fraud or inactivity
  • restricting access to eVisa for some segments of the caseload if analysis demonstrates restricted access would allow for better control of fraud.

The measures target parts of the student visa caseload in India, Mauritius, Nepal, Brazil, Zimbabwe and Pakistan.

Since these enhanced integrity measures were introduced, there has been an increase in the number of applications being withdrawn, from five per cent in July to 17 per cent in September.

The new figure better reflects student costs in Australia and is consistent with information published for international students in Australian Education International’s (the international arm of DEEWR) ‘Study in Australia’ guide.

Living costs are one component of the financial requirements for a student visa. Students must also have sufficient funds for tuition fees, travel costs and costs of any dependents.

‘It is important that students understand these financial requirements are only the minimum amount required for a student visa,’ Senator Evans said.

‘International students can supplement their income through part-time work in Australia but the primary purpose of a student visa is to study and students should not rely on part-time work to meet their expenses.

‘Prospective students are encouraged to conduct their own research so they can make an informed decision about what study in Australia will cost.’

DIAC will also make an assessment of whether the funds demonstrated by students will be available to them while they are in Australia.

‘The Australian Government values international students and is determined to make sure they have a rewarding and successful study experience in Australia, without financial hardship,’ Senator Evans said.

The latest measures will be implemented through regulation change later this month subject to approval by Parliament and the Governor-General.

The changes will support the enhanced integrity measures for the student visa program announced in August this year. Those measures included:

  • upgrading the interview program to build a strong evidence base around fraud
  • removing or restricting eVisa access for some agents where there is evidence of fraud or inactivity
  • restricting access to eVisa for some segments of the caseload if analysis demonstrates restricted access would allow for better control of fraud.

The measures target parts of the student visa caseload in India, Mauritius, Nepal, Brazil, Zimbabwe and Pakistan.

Since these enhanced integrity measures were introduced, there has been an increase in the number of applications being withdrawn, from five per cent in July to 17 per cent in September.

And to date, more than 150 agents have had their eVisa access suspended due to evidence of fraud or inactivity.

More information on the changes will be available on the department’s website in coming days.
See: What’s New for Students and Sponsored Training?

 

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The Department of Immigration and Citizenship is strengthening checks on student visa applications to stamp out fraud and ensure students have the financial capacity to live and study in Australia.

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans said today that applications for student visas grew by 20 per cent to 362 193 in 2008-09, with almost 28 000 student visas refused, an increase of 68 per cent on the number of refusals in 2007-08.

‘While overall student visa compliance rates remain high, there are elements of concern within this large caseload,’ the minister said.

The targeted measures will address the potential for document fraud and other issues around financial capacity, identification and bona fides in some parts of the student caseload. The measures implemented with immediate effect include:

  • upgrading the interview program to build a strong evidence base around fraud;
  • removing or restricting eVisa access for some agents where there is evidence of fraud or inactivity, and
  • restricting access to eVisa for some segments of the caseload if analysis demonstrates restricted access would allow for better control of fraud.

The measures will target parts of the student visa caseload in India, Mauritius, Nepal, Brazil, Zimbabwe and Pakistan.

‘These measures are consistent with those used by other countries that receive large numbers of student visa applications, such as the United States,’ Senator Evans said.

‘Australia’s student visa program supports the entry of genuine international students. For those students, the department provides a convenient, efficient service.

‘The message is clear: genuine international students remain welcome in Australia, but we will not tolerate fraud in the student visa program.’

The measures are part of the Government’s ongoing response to any changes in risk in visa programs and will build on work already conducted across the student visa program to combat fraud as it emerges. Similar arrangements are already in place for students from other countries, such as Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

‘Student visa requirements are aligned to the immigration risk presented by an applicant. The greater the risk identified, the more evidence required to be granted a student visa. Risk is determined by an objective analysis of visa compliance,’ Senator Evans said.

The next formal review of student visa risk framework is scheduled for 2010. The data obtained from the enhanced checking of student visa applications will help inform future reviews.

Source  :  http://www.minister.immi.gov.au/media/media-releases/2009/ce09075.htm

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A vibrant foreshore entertainment district, an indigenous cultural centre, cheap inner-city housing for students, voting at 16 and gay marriage are some ideas for improving Perth that Australia’s 2008 youth ambassador to the United Nations will take to today’s C2030 Summit.
 
One of many speakers at the summit, Elizabeth Shaw, 25, said a bold plan to bring the river to the city should be at the top of the State Government’s to-do list. perth city development 
 
Ms Shaw, of Claremont, is on the City of Perth youth advisory council.
 
She said it was time Perth realised its potential. “We need to stop talking about things like connecting the city to the river and just do them,” she said.
 
“When you’ve got a space like the foreshore, you’ve got to be bold and innovative and take risks.”
 
Ms Shaw’s vision for the foreshore included a variety of housing for all social economic backgrounds, a range of restaurants, live music, wine bars, a rowdy pub, an art gallery, a public space for weekend markets and an indigenous cultural centre.

Diversifying usage on each city block to achieve a balance of retail, housing, business and industry combined with deregulated trading hours would keep the city activated and vibrant at all times.
 
Ms Shaw said attracting and retaining skilled local and international students could be improved by building high-density housing in the city and making it an exciting place to be.
 
“We need a big resident population to create flow-on services,” she said. 

JOSEPH CATANZARO  :   www.thewest.com.au

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The professional association representing migration agents, the Migration Institute of Australia, is concerned about allegations raised on tonight’s Four Corners program on migration and education scams.

“Unfortunately, hearing reports about international students and visa applicants falling prey to unscrupulous operators is not a new issue”, says Maurene Horder, CEO of the Migration Institute of Australia.

In May 2008, the MIA reported 60 rogue agents from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and is unaware if any of these were prosecuted.

Any unethical or illegal behaviour by registered migration agents is not tolerated by the Institute and should be cracked down on by the Department.

“We’ve been asking government to sort out problems with education agents and illegal or unscrupulous operators for an extended period of time. The announcement that education agents will have a register is a first step but doesn’t go far enough in reforming the sector,” says Ms Horder.

A recent independent report, entitled Changing Together, confirms the nature of some of the problems which affects the profession – that the bad behaviour of a minority of unscrupulous operators’ impacts negatively on the entire migration advice profession.

“Following the report’s release, the MIA is acting on a comprehensive range of reforms to strengthen standards and ethics of migration agents.” says Ms Horder. These include:

• Comprehensive reform to the education and training of agents
• Requiring current Registered Migration Agents to requalify to a higher standard of English language and professional competence
• Introduce a tiered system of registration to protect consumers
• Formation of an independent complaints body with the power to review fees

Responsibility for change should be shared by education providers, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

“I wait with interest to see tonight’s Four Corners episode and hope that it will provide an added impetus for the key stakeholders to come together and develop appropriate policies to meet Australia’s educational and immigration interests without anyone being exploited.”

  • Source  :  www.mia.org.au
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