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Australia: student visa fraud at all time high

The number of student visas cancelled by the Australian government has more than tripled in the last two years as instances of falsified test results and/or financial documents have soared within a new streamlined visa system.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has identified around 1,000 course hopping international students, who arrived using SVP, but later moved to unaccredited colleges.

Student visa cancellations more than doubled from 1,978 in 2012 to 7,061 in the last financial year

Figures obtained by The Australian reveal that student visa cancellations more than doubled from 1,978 in 2012 to 4,940 in 2013, rising again to 7,061 in the last financial year.

Visa cancellations more than doubled from 1,978 in 2012 to 7,061 in the last financial year

The alarming-sounding statistics are, to some extent, a result of the change in system to Streamlined Visa Processing (SVP) that is available for some education providers. SVP means “reduced evidentiary requirements (similar to the current Assessment Level 1) regardless of the applicant’s country of origin”.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has also identified around 1,000 course hopping international students, who arrived using the streamlined visa process (SVP), but later illegally moved to unaccredited and often cheaper colleges.

Last year SVP was also extended to VET colleges, which Rod Camm, CEO of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET), believes has opened up more entry routes for bogus students looking for an easy way into the country.

“We have to understand the motivations of the non-genuine students to course hop,” Camm told The PIE News. “In the extreme case where they not only course hop but become ghost students their only motivation is to work rather than study.”

“While this carrot is available without any consequences to the student or the provider, this practice will continue to grow,” he added.

“While this carrot is available without any consequences to the student or the provider, this practice will continue to grow”

Camm explained that the malpractice, which most often also involves non-genuine education agents, is widespread and has affected language schools, universities, TAFE and VET colleges.

Last year global education provider Navitas warned of increasing numbers of potentially fake students. The company cancelled around 40 agent partnerships and initiated interviews with all students from India and Nepal.

“Early last year we noticed higher than acceptable levels of non-genuine student applications from India and Nepal and immediately applied risk mitigation strategies in those countries,” CEO Rod Jones told The PIE News.

“This resulted in lower enrolments from those countries in the second half of 2014 and may affect the semester one 2015 intake,” said Jones. “However we will not compromise on entry standards and risk adversely affecting academic outcomes and the student experience.”

“We will not compromise on entry standards and risk adversely affecting academic outcomes and the student experience”

Thomson Ch’ng, National President of Council of International Students Australia (CISA) has called for all data on student visa fraud to be made public, as he believes the practise of dishonest agents is becoming more widespread.

“CISA condemns the practice of recruiting non-genuine students to Australia, and will continue to work closely with the Australian government and the international education peak bodies to address the issue,” Ch’ng told The PIE News.

In 2013, in an attempt to rebuild Australia’s international education sector, the government outlined plans to simplify visa access to low-risk higher education providers.

“If we cut red tape and allow more students into Australia to access a world-class tertiary education we all stand to gain,” said Pyne in a statement at the time.

Last year international students contributed AUS$15.74bn to the economy, the highest figure bar the peak year of 2010

Last year international students contributed AUS$15.74bn to the economy, the highest figure bar the peak year of 2010, in which international students contributed AUS$16.4bn.

Interestingly in the peak year of 2010, the government enforced stronger rules to mitigate against students course hopping to unaccredited providers.

“The checks and balances, such as attendance requirements of 20 hours per week, have since been removed or simply aren’t policed appropriately to deter non genuine students to course hop,” said Camm.

However Camm is assured that bogus students are “still very much in the minority” compared to genuine international students who stay with a provider until graduation.

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