Government takes strong action against education visa scams

By Our Reporter
Representative image //Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Private colleges will face a ban on providing commissions to education agents who lure students away from competing institutions as part of an extensive government crackdown on the abuse of Australia’s visa system. This comprehensive response follows a review of the exploitation of Australia’s visa system conducted by former Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, Christine Nixon.

The Nixon review, which is yet to be officially released by the government, was prompted by a series of exposés by The Age, in collaboration with The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes, uncovering issues related to human trafficking, foreign worker exploitation, and visa scams.

The Age reports that Clare O’Neil, Home Affairs Minister, emphasised the significance of these measures, stating, “The party is over: the rorts and loopholes that have plagued this system will be shut down. This is the first of many announcements this week to restore integrity to international education and to our migration system.”

Among the forthcoming changes is the reinforcement of the fit-and-proper person test for international education providers, designed to prevent private college owners from simultaneously operating as education agents.

Additionally, private colleges and universities will gain access to education agent performance data, including student completion and visa rejection rates, aiding them in selecting reputable education agents as partners, The Age report adds.

The prohibition on paying agents commissions for transferring students between higher education institutions aims to eliminate incentives for unscrupulous agents to encourage students to leave their universities or other high-quality study programs in favor of low-fee courses of questionable quality, it says.

This practice, known as ‘onshore poaching,’ has been exposed, with private colleges paying substantial sums to local education agents for recruiting international students already in the country, it further adds.

The investigation by The Age, The Herald, and 60 Minutes revealed the operation of a global human trafficking syndicate running an illegal sex racket in Australia with little consequence. Migration agents operating ‘visa farms’ were found to have corrupted the entry process for students, families seeking reunification, and refugees.

The Nixon review identified gaps and weaknesses in Australia’s visa system that allowed ‘criminal organisations and unscrupulous individuals’ to ‘exploit people and make money.’ These ‘abhorrent crimes’ had been overshadowed by other law enforcement priorities, such as illicit drugs, tobacco, and unauthorised maritime arrivals, as noted in Nixon’s report.

The Age quotes Jason Clare, Education Minister, who acknowledged the challenges, stating, “International students are back, but so are the shonks seeking to exploit them and undermine our international education system.”

Clare also hinted at additional measures to address ‘dodgy’ operators in the international education sector, underscoring the government’s commitment to enhanced monitoring and compliance.

Further announcements stemming from the Nixon review, as well as separate immigration-related policy changes, will be unveiled in the coming days by Skills and Training Minister Brendan O’Connor, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil, and Immigration Minister Andrew Giles, respectively, The Age reports.

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