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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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This output:

  • strengthens the economic and budgetary benefits from granting permanent residence visas to skilled and business migrants
  • addresses key and emerging skill shortages, particularly in regional Australia
  • expands business establishment and investment.

Performance

In 2008–09, the department issued 114 777 Skill Stream visas, compared to 108 542 in 2007–08.

Regional migration and state-specific initiatives now account for 29.2 per cent of the Skill Stream of the Migration Program. The Australian Government works with state and territory governments to encourage Australian employers and potential overseas applicants to use these programs.

During 2008–09, the department issued 33 474 state specific and regional migration visas, an increase of 27.9 per cent over the previous year. Since the introduction of these programs in 1996, a total of 169 328 visas have been issued.

Regional migration continues to be a priority under the Skill Stream. Through their sponsorship of skilled migrants, state and territory governments have a direct influence on the number and skill sets of migrants who settle in their jurisdictions. The number of visas granted to people sponsored by states and territories was 14 055 in 2008–09. 

Read more go to  :  http://www.immi.gov.au/about/reports/annual/2008-09/html/outcome1/output1-1-1.htm

 

 

Description

Under this output, the department manages the entry of skilled and business migrants. State-specific and regional migration programs help employers and state and territory governments fill skill shortages that cannot be filled locally. These programs are targeted to address existing and projected skill shortages and help in the development of local communities.

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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 (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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New priority processing directions for certain skilled migration visas – 23 September 2009

The Minister has set a new priority processing direction which comes into effect on 23 September 2009 and applies to certain skilled migration visas.

See: http://www.immi.gov.au/skilled/general-skilled-migration/pdf/faq-priority-processing.pdf

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AUSTRALIA has delivered a blunt message to India that it is selling education, not visas, even as the Rudd government deploys its most senior ministers to patch up relations damaged over a series of Indian student assaults.

Trade Minister Simon Crean, whose visit to India this week overlaps that of Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, outlined to the Confederation of Indian Industry yesterday federal government measures to crack down on shonky education and training providers in Australia.

But he said the crackdown could be successful only if similar action were taken in India to close down shonky education and immigration agents running scams to secure permanent Australian residency through student visas.

“Let’s be clear, we are offering a quality education in a safe environment,” Mr Crean said yesterday. “The quality of our education is what we are promoting, not the visa attached to it.

“For this to succeed, we also need the co-operation of the Indian government. The fact that politicians in both countries have been forced to focus on the issue improves the odds of coming up with a better system.”

Ms Gillard is understood to have delivered a similar message during meetings with Indian Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal and, late on Tuesday night, with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, where greater engagement between the two countries on defence, energy and climate change were also discussed.

Mr Crean denied Australia’s international education industry needed to be remarketed in India, despite the fact it is widely seen — and in some areas promoted — as a pathway to permanent residency.

But he conceded better co-operation between Australian government agencies was also needed to help stem student visa abuses.

What the student issue has done is shed a light on the importance of interaction between Austrade, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and those that market our services in the Department of Education, Employment and Work Relations in the protection of our brand,” he said yesterday.

In just eight days, India will have hosted three of Australia’s most senior politicians, Mr Crean, Ms Gillard and Wayne Swan.

By the end of the year, a total of eight Australian ministers will have graced Indian soil.

The ministerial offensive is aimed at patching bilateral relations, damaged by a recent series of attacks on Indian students in Australia, as well as building trade relations with the emerging Asian superpower.

Mr Crean, who is in India for a two-day meeting of G20 trade ministers ahead of the next Doha round of WTO talks in Pittsburgh later this month, said Australia’s trade relationship with India had historically been “underdone”.

The ministerial visits — which will culminate in a tour by Kevin Rudd later this year — were designed to correct that.

“We understand the fundamental importance of India to our future, just as we do China and the rest of Asia. This is going to be the fastest-growing region in the world for the next couple of decades, it is the place to be,” he said. “Australia fortunately positioned itself for that a couple of decades ago but we have to renew the effort.

“Obviously, if there is a hiccup in the relationship, as there has been here over student safety, of course we have to address it. Visits here are an important part of that.”

Canberra hopes that a successful culmination of the Doha talks — aimed at reducing international trade barriers — will help accelerate free trade agreement negotiations between Australia and India, still at the feasibility stage.

It was also concentrating on building trade ties in infrastructure and energy security areas, with particular focus on investments in gas and coal.

Mr Crean denied that Australia’s refusal to sell uranium to India — a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — would hurt the progress of the talks, despite Mr Singh again raising the issue during his meeting with Ms Gillard.

Source  :  The Australian

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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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