Aussie govt warns M’sians of visa scam

People need to make sure they hold the correct type of visa, says Aussie official

By LYDIA NATHAN / Pic By BLOOMBERG

The Australian government has warned Malaysians not to be duped by visa scams purported to facilitate locals to enter the country, amid claims that more local tourists have been turned away at airports upon their arrival.

Australia’s news site news.com.au recently reported that more Malaysians are denied entry into the country due to rampant cases of people rorting the system.

A spokesperson from Australia’s Department of Home Affairs said there have been a number of visa scams which have emerged in Malaysia recently.

“These scams may take the form of agents offering visas and flights to Australia for people to work illegally. “The Australian government is concerned that some Malaysians are being taken in by these scams and appeals to Malaysians to understand what their visa allows them to do,” said the spokesperson in an email reply to The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

The spokesperson did not elaborate on the number of victims of the scam.

“Australia welcomes around 400,000 Malaysians to Australia every year for study, business and tourism purposes, but we also have robust processes in place to ensure people do not exploit our visa system.

“Before travelling to Australia, people need to make sure they hold the correct type of visa,” said the spokesperson.

Australia is one of the key tourism destinations for Malaysians. Thousands of Malaysians study in Australian universities, generating a substantial income to the country. Malaysians are allowed to apply for an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) to travel to Australia for short-term visit or certain business activities.

However, the spokesperson said some ETA’s cannot be processed electronically because it will require more information from the authorities.

The spokesperson emphasised that an ETA does not provide the right to work in Australia.

“So, one of the key criteria for this type of visa is that the applicant intends a genuine temporary stay in Australia, either for tourism or business purposes, and does not intend to work in breach of their visa conditions,” the spokesperson added in the reply.

Any lodging of a paper-based visa application will require the person to attend the Australian Visa Application Centre, where biometrics of the person will be taken, including a 10-digit fingerprint scan and/or a facial photograph.

“This is really to ensure applicants are genuine short-term tourists or business visitors and have no other ill intentions,” the spokesperson said to TMR.

TMR had previously reported incidences of people entering the country on a tourist visa, but only to overstay and work illegally.

Malaysia tops the list of countries of overstaying visitors in Australia. Figures showed that between 2016 and 2017, some 10,000 Malaysians overstayed in Australia, followed by 6,500 (from China), 5,170 (the US), 3,700 (Britain), 2,780 (Indonesia) and 2,730 (India).

Many Malaysians had entered Australia legally and later sought job in farms across the continent, mainly to pick fruits despite reports of torturous working conditions.

TMR spoke to a local who wanted only to be known as Sophie. She had been approached by an agent early this year with the promises of more money and a wonderful working experience in Adelaide.

She claimed the agent had asked for RM5,000, which was for the visa and flight ticket.

“I was told by the agent that he will find me a job and everything else would be taken care of. The job would either be in the dairy industry or a berry-picking farm,” she said, adding that the job will begin in November this year.

However, after much thought, she decided against the idea.

“Even though I was promised all these things, I was worried. A few of my friends had gone before me and they had a terrible time. I just couldn’t risk it,” she said.

According to the Australian Border Force Department (ABF), eight unlawful non- citizens were detained on two properties in Kununurra in the far north region of Western Australia in June 2018.

Six of them were Malaysian nationals and were suspected to be involved in worker exploitation.

Acting Superintendent Anthony Spadavecchia from ABF’s Enforcement Command said the operation specifically targeted labour hire intermediaries and employers suspected of exploiting foreign workers.

“Illegal workers are often underpaid and poorly treated, and those facilitating their employment are making significant profits at their expense. It also puts legitimate local businesses at a disadvantage,” he said in a news report.

The Department of Home Affairs warned that those working illegally in Australia will have to pay for the cost of their removal and will be banned from returning to Australia for three years.

“So, travellers should carefully check their visa conditions before visiting Australia,” said the spokesperson.

The department also said Malaysians who want to travel to Australia should not apply for their visas at the last minute, but instead two weeks before their travel date.

“People should also not book flights before they have their ETA or appropriate visas to allow entry into Australia,” the department said.