Friday, November 14, 2008

Minister plans ban on shaky visa deals

The Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, wants tougher laws to combat the rise of shonky education agents promising Australian visas to overseas students when they can deliver no such thing.

Increasingly, unscrupulous dealers in Australia and overseas are selling dubious study packages offering tuition, work experience and an Australian visa, a Senate committee heard yesterday.So worrying was the practice that Senator Evans said he had recently raised it with the Chinese ambassador.

"I have very severe concerns about education agents both in this country and abroad," Senator Evans said.

"If someone gets induced and sold a package in their home country, there's very little we can currently do about that. They arrive with expectations that can't be delivered."

Senator Evans said a lot of the promotion of such packages happened overseas. They purported to glean favourable visa outcomes for would-be students when in fact education agents could not provide immigration advice.

Senator Evans said he was working with the Education Minister, Julia Gillard, to increase the legislative powers available to Australia in tackling the problem.

He had also talked with representatives from Australian universities.

"Obviously they don't want anything that undermines the reputation of Australia's education services," Senator Evans said.

The National Liaison Committee, Australia's peak representative body for international students, said the exploitation began with the introduction of full-fee paying foreign students in 1986, and was worse now.

"It's getting serious now with more private institutions being set up to recruit international students overseas," the committee's president, Eric Pang, said. "Many students are not aware of their rights as consumers. The recruitment agents are profit driven and obviously, looking for numbers. The students are looking for quality education."He said foreign students were pumped with misinformation which led to disappointment and culture shock when they arrived in Australia.

"The gap between perception and reality can be really big, depending on how pretty a picture is being painted by agents offshore. International students need accurate information," Mr Pang said.

Tougher regulation of overseas recruitment agencies was required to stem the problem, many of which were tied to private education providers operating in Australia, Mr Pang said.

He could not say how many students had been drawn to Australia on false promises of a visa.

Meanwhile, the Department of Immigration said it may have to compensate as many as 191 people for wrongful detention.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman, John McMillan, found last year that 247 Australian citizens, permanent residents and lawful visa holders had been wrongly detained between 1993 and 2007.

Yesterday a lawyer for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Robyn Bicket, told a Senate committee those cases had been reviewed.

"Currently we are at 191 cases we believe there is risk of legal liability for compensation," she said.

Compensation has been offered in 40 cases, of which 17 have been settled at a total cost of $1.2 million, she said.

In the year to June 30, the department spent $4.1 million in compensation. Cornelia Rau, the permanent resident wrongly detained for 10 months, was awarded $2.6 million.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald


  1. Comment from Peter Vardos (First Assistanc Secretary, Migration and Visa Policy Division):

    The Department of Immigration and Citizenship recognises the valuable work that Professional International Education Resources (PIER) plays in enhancing the professional skills of education agents and other practitioners working in the international education industry.

    I recognise that the EATC is just one of a number of valuable resources that PIER has developed which assists in raising the standard of services that Australia can provide to international students. It is regrettable that the actions of unscrupulous education agents can harm Australia’s reputation in providing education services to international students. The Department is supportive of the work PIER undertakes to address these issues through educating agents about their role and professional responsibilities. Through information on the Department’s Agents Gateway website we encourage agents to undertake the EATC and look favourably on agents who have done so.
    [extract from letter received by PIER on the 9th November 2008]

  2. This is really sad. I feel that the world should be moving more towards an open society. Especially so when it comes to education.

    Lets make this one world one multi cultural society.

  3. Have a several issues here, first if satisfaction surveying was made compulsory issues would be found outrather than waiting for them to happen, and universities saying they are not profit driven in student recruitment?

    The EATC is fine in theory, and could assist in moderating rogue agents if they bother to pay attention, but cannot see how different it is from the citizenship test or MARA training where candidates have to get the right answer. My understanding of modern education and training, and application to the workplace, is knowing how, not what?

  4. if Australia can't control these overseas agents why still give them rights to act on behalf of students.

    All visa issues should be direct to MARA agent's control, otherwise Australian agents are under very strict regulation while their overseas competitors are not, how can we compete?

  5. As the marketing manager for a private RTO. I deal with Education ad Migration Agents on a daily basis and have now implemented a vetting system for all agents wishing to represent our Institute.I have over the past 8 months canceled over 5 agent agreements with us due to Agents not acting in an ethical manner withholding fees for students offering discounts on our courses and not providing correct information for students.As we now have approval for the new SIT training package. I have sent out all my agents new terms and conditions therefor making it much harder to become a representative. As we have now hit hard those RTO's how have been assisting these agents with SHADY deals,Those agents now seek other RTO's to provide the same underhanded deals as they were accustomed to and are not happy when i tell them we do not want them representing us and the abuse i receive is indescribably i have now added a privacy clause in all agreements allowing me the legal right to NAME THEN if all private RTO'S did the same we would have a far better Industry providing better opportunities for all international students. I wrote to the Immigration Minster several months ago stating my disgust at the lack of control of AGENTS unethical behavior and as we must act according to the conditions required By various government bodies such as VETAB and DIAC who is controlling these agent MARA does NOTHING good luck Mr EVANS in establishing this new AGENT BODY but i wont hold my breath. If you breath..Don't just through together some ancient education relics talk to those of us that deal with these agents every day .....