Foreign students could be forced to leave
By Sushi Das
The Sydney Morning Herald, June 10, 2009
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.