7.30 Report exposes another skilled migration visa rort


By Leith van Onselen

In June 2016, ABC’s 7.30 Report documented systemic fraud within Australia’s working and student visa programs (summary post here), whereby Melbourne Indian community leader, Jasvinder Sidhu, explained his first-hand accounts of widespread visa rorting and corruption:

NICK MCKENZIE: In a series of conversations, the visa fixer asked Jasvinder Sidhu to find new visa applicants among his friends and family back in India. The fixer would then arrange for a corrupt employer to provide the paperwork for a fake job and visa sponsorship.

JASVINDER SIDHU: They were offering multiple sponsorships in commercial cookery, in mechanics, IT as well because he said his boss could arrange 457 in IT – information technology.

NICK MCKENZIE: The visa scam came as little surprise to Jasvinder Sidhu. He knows of many Indians who’ve paid large cash sums to corruptly obtained skilled or student visas in an effort to get permanent residency.

JASVINDER SIDHU: I’ve been hearing it eight, nine years and the last time I heard was last week when somebody paid $45,000 cash.

NICK MCKENZIE: Now Sidhu is determined to expose what he’s learned about Australia’s immigration underworld.

JASVINDER SIDHU: These people will then create your fake timesheets, fake pay slips and they will pay in your bank account and obviously everything else will also be fake, which is superannuation and other related documents.

NICK MCKENZIE: So you’re paying for a fake, a phantom job and in return you get your skilled visa?

JASVINDER SIDHU: Yes. So you are paying extra to get or create a job which doesn’t exist and to create a service which was never delivered and you’re getting permanent residency, which is not fake. This is a real output…

Yes, there’s corruption from top to bottom. Thousands and thousands of people are being sponsored and they’re all fake. The whole system cannot work that smoothly if there’s no corruption in the system.

NICK MCKENZIE: Someone on the inside has to know?

JASVINDER SIDHU: Oh, yes, definitely. Even if you do a bit of overspeeding, you are caught, but this is a huge corruption – huge level of corruption and it is so widespread.

Last night, ABC’s 7.30 Report repeated the dose, with another report highlighting exploitation of the skilled visa system by dodgy migration agents:

A businessman who has been photographed posing with several Australian politicians is under investigation for allegedly charging would-be migrants tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for skilled working visas they never received.

Border Force investigators recently raided the Melbourne premises of a migration services company called YABS Services, which was run by prominent Indian-Australian businessman Avniesh Bhardwaj…

7.30 has spoken to a number of Indian and Pakistani citizens who say Mr Bhardwaj, or consultants working for YABS, promised to arrange jobs in Australia and skilled employment visas for them.

In most of the cases seen by the ABC, YABS apparently did lodge an application on behalf of the client, but they were initially charged around $30,000 and told the application would be approved within three to four months.

Clients also say they were told that if the application was rejected, they would receive a partial refund.

However in some instances it has now been up to four years since the initial payment was made, and the jobs and promises have come to nothing.

In some cases Mr Bhardwaj allegedly charged more fees as the process dragged on, with one applicant eventually paying more than $50,000…

7.30 has spoken to half a dozen other people who paid money to YABS in exchange for jobs and visas, and have been left emptyhanded…

According to migration lawyer Sanmati Verma, the type of rip-off alleged by clients of YABS has become more common as the emphasis in skilled migration has shifted to employer sponsorship, which requires prospective migrants to have jobs in Australia arranged before they arrive here.

“From 2012 onwards the Department of Immigration’s focus changed from what they called supply driven migration, whereby people would put their hand up for a visa and show their skills, show their qualifications in Australia to get that visa, to demand driven migration, i.e, migration driven more by the desire for Australian employers to have people here,” she said.

“So that type of shift whereby independent pathways for migration, skilled pathways, became much more difficult to access … towards a focus on employers actually sponsoring people for visas to Australia has created a market for employer exploitation, or migration agent exploitation, of people’s inability to basically get a visa on their own.”


Herein lies one of the great contradictions of the Turnbull Government. While it has sought to cruelly persecute asylum seekers arriving by boat people, as well as outsource Australia’s temporary ‘skilled’ visa system to private operators (thus further deregulating it), it has done little to address the many thousands of migrant arrivals to Australia by plane, many of which are being routinely exploited by employers and undermining overall Australian working conditions.

Australians are growing tired of the flagrant disregard for Australian law. The systematic abuse of Australia’s visa system is harming the prospects of local workers; harming small businesses that do the right thing; harming the temporary foreign workers being exploited under slave-like conditions; draining the developing world of their skilled human resources; and harming the integrity of the tax system, which is losing revenue via the black economy.

The whole migrant system has become a sad joke, run for the benefit of the wealthy elite to the detriment of the ordinary Australian. It needs root-and-branch reform to both lower the numbers arriving and restore some integrity back into the system.


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About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.