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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 Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) is urging the media and the public to ignore hoax emails circulating on the internet about government benefits provided to asylum seekers and refugees permanently settling in Australia.

Some of the hoax emails also falsely claim Australia accepts terrorists and other criminals under its international obligations.

“The text in these emails has many gross inaccuracies,” a DIAC spokesman said.

“Irregular maritime arrivals are subject to thorough security and identity checks and must satisfy the character test before being a decision is made about protection.

“Only those who engage Australia’s international obligations receive refugee status; indeed, the government has already returned people who were not refugees.

“Figures quoted in these emails also bear no resemblance to income-support payments to asylum seekers and refugees settling in Australia.

“Asylum seekers in Australia who have not yet had their protection claims decided have no access to Centrelink benefits.

“In Australia, refugees granted permanent visas have access to benefits on the same basis and at the same rates as other Australian permanent residents.”

The spokesman said refugees received no cash payments under Australia’s Integrated Humanitarian Settlement Strategy. He said any claims that refugees are given free houses were ridiculous.

“DIAC helps eligible refugees with English-language lessons and settling-in assistance including basic goods to start a household, as well as subsidies for rent and utilities for their first four weeks in the country,” the spokesman said.

“We would strongly encourage anyone who receives an email claiming asylum seekers or refugees are treated more favourably than Australian permanent residents to hit the delete button and ignore these ridiculous claims.”

Media Enquiries: (02) 6264 2244

Source  :  http://www.newsroom.immi.gov.au/media_releases/750

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In a welcome move, the Australian Government has said it will legislate to extend the validity period of subclass 410 Retirement visas to 10 years, and remove the working restriction on these visas.

Subclass 410 Retirement visas ceased to be available to new applicants at the end of June 2005, but there are nevertheless some 8,700 410 visaholders in Australia at the moment.

The 410 visa is a long term temporary residency visa, with an initial validity period of 4 years. Initially renewals of this visa were required every 2 years, and there was a no work condition attaching.

Work rights were relaxed in 2003, and relaxations to the health requirements upon renewal of 410 visas were announced later that year.

In 2005 the rollover period for 410 visas was extended from 2 years to 4 years.

Successive Immigration Ministers appear to be sympathetic to the position in which Retirement visaholders find themselves. Many 410 visaholders are now long standing members of Australian communities, and granting permanent residency is a natural next step – the present Minister appears willing to listen to representatives of the 410 cohort, and in extending the renewal period to 10 years is (we would submit) providing quasi-permanent residency to affected individuals.

Full access to Medicare appears to be the main issue with this visa category, together with an ongoing requirement to maintain private health insurance.Indeed, with temporary visaholders being able to structure their personal tax affairs such that overseas source income (including UK source pensions) are not subject to tax in Australia, some would contend that 410 visaholders are in a good place visa and tax wise.If you are a subclass 410 visaholder and would like to discuss your personal tax and financial position please contact us at our Perth or Geelong office. Go Matilda Accounting and Tax is one of the few firms of advisors that have consultants with knowledge across the UK and Australian jurisdictions, and are therefore ideally placed to assist with the preparation and lodgment of UK and Australian Tax Returns, and to provide strategic advice on personal tax planning.

We also recommend that Retirement visaholders visit the internet discussion group that lobbies for the interests of individuals holding subclass 410 visas – British Expat Retirees In Australia, or BERIA: see the weblink below.

  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BERIA/  Source : www.gomatilda.com 

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