Australia’s visa system ‘gamed’ by international students

By Leith van Onselen

Examples of foreign students ‘gaming’ Australia’s visa system to obtain permanent residency are plentiful.

First, International students are behind the ballooning in bridging visas, which have blown-out by 40,000 over the past year, as well as by 90,000 since 2014:

That’s right, In August it was revealed that foreign students have been ‘gaming’ Australian immigration system by appealing their decisions en masse to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) to extend their stay:

The number of outstanding student visa refusal cases before the tribunal at the end of May totalled 8603. This compared with 4394 active cases at the end of June 2017 — an increase of more than 95 per cent in a little under a year. The 8603 active student visa refusal cases represented 30 per cent of all active migration cases…

Victorian Liberal MP Jason Wood, the chair of the joint standing committee on migration, said the backlog of cases at the AAT was “outrageous” and argued that the appeals process was “working in favour of the visa holder and not necessarily the Australian taxpayer”. He said foreign students could game the system to extend their stay by several years — an outcome which he said would deny Australian citizens more part time jobs.

Worse, Chinese students have helped to drive an absurd 311% increase in asylum seeker claims, according to The ABC:

Key points:

  • People claiming to be Christian, LGBTI and love children are among those seeking asylum
  • All arrived by plane using temporary visas, mainly for study and tourism
  • Experts warn bogus asylum claims are a way to overstay visas

The number of Chinese nationals applying for refugee asylum in Australia has risen by 311 per cent in just one year, according to figures from the Department of Home Affairs…

Onshore protection visa applications from those who arrived by plane from the People’s Republic of China jumped from 2,269 in 2016-17 to 9,315 in 2017-18, the data reveals.

Despite the surge in claims, Chinese nationals had one of the lowest success rates for protection visas, with the Department only recognising 10 per cent of those claims as being genuine.

The total number of onshore asylum claims for all nationalities soared 225 per cent from 8,587 in 2014-15 to 27,931 in 2017-18 with Chinese nationals making up a third of all claims over that period.

Refugee Council of Australia director of policy Joyce Chia told the ABC the number of student visas had increased with the booming international student industry in Australia, now worth an estimated $32 billion.

“I think the fact that Chinese people have increasing access [to Australia] is a large factor,” she said.

“We are seeing a massive increase in people coming by plane generally, and obviously with the massive increase in international students from places like China, it’s now much easier for those students to get to Australia”…

Transcripts from hearings at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), which has the power to overturn decisions made by the Department of Home Affairs, reveal a range of reasons applicants claim to be refugees, including being: a love child, Christian, a cult member or LGBT…

Many claimants are arriving on temporary migrant visas such as international student visas, of which there are 652,000 currently studying in Australia — including almost 200,000 are from China, according to the federal Department of Education.

Associate professor of law at Murdoch University Mary Anne Kenny said an obvious reason for the spike in questionable protection claims was the bridging visas you could obtain while awaiting a decision.

“Once you are in the country, either as a tourist or a student, if you then apply for a protection visa, you are eligible for a bridging visa,” she told the ABC.

“Depending on the type, [it] may give you the right to work and can take some time [to process] depending on how long it takes the department to process the application.

“It doesn’t cost very much to make an application and you can then extend your period of stay here, because you will be on the bridging visa while your application is [being] determined.”

In August 2018, there were 176,000 people on bridging visas in Australia — a massive jump from 40,000 at the same time last year…

Experts say the significant number of appealing applicants who do not show up to hearings raises further concerns that the process is being abused by fraudulent claims in a bid by some visa holders to extend their stay…

The average time the AAT took to decide migration cases was about a year, allowing students who had a visa cancelled or expired to extend their stay by appealing.

If unsuccessful they could then apply for a protection visa, which took an average time of about eight months to be decided…

Associate professor Anne Kenny said it was possible the number of false claims was rising because word was spreading among temporary visa arrivals of the success of others in lengthening their stay.

Regional migration schemes are also being widely rorted by international students. Earlier this year it was revealed that applicants from the Sub-Continent using state-based nominations in Tasmania and the ACT for backdoor permanent residency into Sydney and Melbourne, which are suffering from crush-loading:

During recent months and years, a large number of prospective permanent residents – particularly international students from the Indian subcontinent – moved to Tasmania and the ACT for a relatively easier pathway to permanent residency.

But, the latest set of changes, including increased work experience in Tasmania and closing down of occupations in the ACT, has sent the visa aspirants scurrying for alternatives…

Jujhar Bajwa from Bajwa Immigration Consultants in Melbourne says many of his clients are extremely worried due to these changes.

“They [visa seekers] moved from Melbourne and Sydney to Tasmania and ACT, worked hard in order to fulfil one set of requirements hoping that they will get the state nomination, and now suddenly they have another set of requirements to fulfil,” he told SBS Punjabi…

The rorting was particularly rampant in Canberra:

In July last year the ACT government widened the criteria for those seeking to be nominated by the territory government for permanent residency. If a potential migrant’s occupation was not on the list of in-demand jobs, they could apply by proving a close connection to Canberra. This included living in the ACT for at least 12 months and studying a Certificate III or higher qualification at a local institution…

“When the subclass 190 visa popped up, the students started streaming in,” Min Gurung, marketing and sales manager from JP International College, in Mawson said. The college experienced an increase of 300-400 students in the past year, with many students moving to the ACT with their partners and young families…

Unity College in Belconnen experienced an almost two-fold increase in its student numbers to about 50…

Some operators of the colleges are reluctant to speak out, with one reporting his institution had about 100 students before July last year. In the past year, that number grew to about 300 students…

It’s believed up to eight colleges have opened in the past year and more applications could be in the works…

And now the ACT Government facing legal action from these students for partially closing the rorted scheme down:

International students who moved to the ACT after July 2017 in hopes of being nominated for a subclass 190 visa have “good prospects of success” in legal action against the ACT government, according to new legal advice…

The ACT government partially closed the program in June this year, months after it became aware that large numbers of international students were streaming into the territory in order to study at private colleges for one year and apply for the visa.

The program was reopened at the end of November with a new system for deciding on eligibility. Under the new system, applicants gain points depending on what job they have, how long they have lived in Australia and how qualified they are. The new program doesn’t have a minimum number of points that guarantees an applicant will be invited to apply for a visa…

The legal advice says “the students would have good prospects of succeeding in an action against the ACT under the Australian Consumer Law for both ‘misleading and deceptive conduct’ and ‘unconscionable conduct’ by the ACT”.

Nobody should be surprised about this pervasive rorting. After all, the lobby group representing foreign students in Australia – the Council for International Students in Australia (CISA) – point blank admitted that students come here to migrate, not because of the quality of education on offer:

The Council for International Students in Australia said foreign potential students were attracted to Australia by the possibility of migrating here.

But Mr Dutton’s strong views on border policy and his statement that Australia should reduce its intake of migrants “where we believe it is in our national interest” would tip the balance for some would-be students…

The national president of CISA, Bijay Sapkota, said… “For people coming from low socio-economic backgrounds there has to be a value proposition. If they go home they will not get value. So there has to be a possibility of immigration.”

He said international students were not satisfied with the way Mr Dutton had run the immigration portfolio, where some visas were at risk of being closed down at any time…

The reality is that Australia’s education system has become an integral part of the immigration industry and Australia’s population ponzi – effectively a way for foreigners to buy backdoor permanent residency to Australia.

Not only are these students helping to crush-load our major cities and placing downward pressure on wages, but they are dumbing down education standards, as revealed by three recent Australian reports (here, here and here).

It’s time to put a leash on the university sector, starting with removing the link between foreign students studying at university and gaining work visas and permanent residency, as well as lifting entry standards. Let our universities compete on quality and value alone.

[email protected]

Unconventional Economist

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

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  1. He said international students were not satisfied with the way Mr Dutton had run the immigration portfolio, where some visas were at risk of being closed down at any time…

    So the international “students” (Lol) aren’t satisfied? Then they should just fcuk off then.

  2. File this under No Shit Sherlock!

    PRs have been sold for decades under the guise of study. Any surprise so many Chinese students are trying to rort the system?

  3. 673,000 foreign students & partners.
    Fact check: use the AustralianEducation Gov Snapshots website which has all the details.

    Not an ‘export’ but a massive social & economic loss.

    Not all the foreign students are on an international student visa, but on other categories.
    Many are not studying – the 673,000 number includes 53,000 ‘partners’ as ‘secondary’ on the primary foreign student visa & they enter with no English & full work rights & very long stay 4 to 9 years depending on visa churn & extension.

    75% work illegally – (USyd & UTS studies).

    It was 624,001 in Dec 2017 and has increased by 8% in 2018 to 673,000.

    “The number of student visas had increased with the booming international student industry in Australia, now worth an estimated $32 billion*.”

    ➡️It’s $32 billion of ‘economic activity’.

    Not a $32 billion ‘export’.

    673,000 foreign students & partners at an average GDP economic activity of $47.5k each or $914 each a week. (Treasury)

    They lower Australian GDP by -2.7%

    Their income is EARNED HERE – mostly
    illegally (75%).
    NOT AN EXPORT at all.
    A massive importation of negative GDP per capita.

    Fact check:
    The entire foreign student intake only brings in $2.4 billion in declared funds & mostly not checked or easily frauded.
    (DHA declared funds / checked & self declared)

    Fees: They only pay $7.8 billion in fees. Source Deloitte Access Economics.

    Job impacts.
    They displace at least 500,000 Australians in working illegally / cash in hand job stealing costing $9 billion in Centrelink alone. (We have 1.3 million unemployed & 1.1 million seeking work)

    They pay little or no tax / 75% work illegally cash in hand or fake ID – so another $4 billion negative.

    They lower wages for all Australians some 6.8% is the estimate – costing tens of billions in direct wages loss (no growth) plus lower taxation.

    They destroy housing – occupying some 150,000 ex Australian dwellings, typically foreign owned cash in hand sub let bunk share and falsified rent by that foreign owner, no tax paid.
    Tens of billions lost.

    They destroyed Australian education (fallen 10 places globally) as it sold Australian youth out to provide a migrant guestworker alibi that destroyed their opportunity and employment. Tens of billions lost.

    Social impact.
    Congestion. 90% are in Sydney or Melbourne. Long stay to very long stay (4 to 9 years is common).
    Driving some 100,000 cars on international licences. Congesting trains & public transport. Sparking massive misguided projects such as Sydney Light Rail ($4 billion) that they will never pay for.

    City housing affordability crisis.
    (Tasmania issues triggered by University of Tasmania expansion of 8,000 foreign students occupying at least 1,800 existing modest ex Australian dwellings yet no housing built yet – and only 400 beds in accommodation is planned).

    116,000 Australian permanent homeless & 340,000 seeking affordable housing.
    Costing tens billions.

    Human Capital Value.
    Of the 673,000 foreign students & partners only 38,000 are doing genuine post grad high level education.
    The other 635,000 are doing low level nonsense courses available free online or in their home country (or as a ‘partner’ no course at all & working full time or working illegally). Most courses have no or low international recognition. The progression of a foreign student into a high income professional vocation is 3.7%. Meaning that 96% fail to ever achieve any human capital value above average – in Australia (where they join the dole queue as a PR) or in their home country.

    Where exactly is the ‘EXPORT?’

    The entire Australian ‘foreign student industry’ is massively economically & socially negative.

    It needs a Royal Commission.

    • Where exactly is the ‘EXPORT?’

      The export is that they pay full fees, propping up the Higher Ed sector seeing as for ideological reasons JWH didn’t want the government to fund higher ed. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul stuff – it’s ideologically unacceptable to support higher ed, but not to incur expense elsewhere by getting people from other countries to pay for our higher ed now in exchange for medical care when they’re still here at age 70.

      • “The export is that they pay full fees, propping up the Higher Ed sector seeing as for ideological reasons JWH didn’t want the government to fund higher ed any services.”

        Fixed that for you.

    • Negative contributions economic output like the property sector and of course they are linked. Australian crony capitalism. Meanwhile the productive part of the economy continues to decline.

  4. But MB says not to worry about temporary visa holders because ‘they leave’. They either don’t or are staying quite a while.

    • If you come here as a temporary migrant, but never get PR and never leave then I assume you’re still counted as a temporary migrant?

    • They are not part of the correct solution so they are part of the problem. Having socialised with a vice chancellor and witnessed his hubris, I wouldn’t care if all the “students” ran back home to their mummies as merde meets fan Oz style in 2019.

  5. So we have those from the Sub-Continent rorting and gaming the system, PLUS taking legal action when things don’t suit them, PLUS the taxpayer is funding a Punjabi and Hindi SBS service?

    We really do lube it up in readiness for them.

  6. Scrap working rights for students and their partners.

    Appeals not granted for those that come in under false pretences – i.e. student and tourist visas.

    Scrap graduate visas except for genuine occupational shortages.

    Scrap citizenship rights for children born to dual temporary visa holder parents

    Scrap PR points for non-rural study or work, especially for relatively short stays of less than 2 years

  7. As we all know none of these country killing policies have ever been openly debated but have simply been imposed to favour their (politicians) ‘mates’. Can only envisage a crisis and collapse resulting in a change that ends these policies.

  8. There is a lot of fat that could be trimmed from the universities. Bloated middle and top management. Useless roles that signal but deliver nothing. Trim the fat and there wouldn’t be the need to attract and coddle foreign students at the expense of local students.

  9. I can not believe that the number of bridging visa holders from Nepal outnumber the number of bridging visa holders from Pakistan!

    Someone in Nepal must be saying “if you do a cooking course in Australia, you are given an Aussie passport”.

    But even if they eventually get deported after 10 years, it is very damaging. That is 10 years of working here for $10/hour and paying no income tax at all while using taxpayer-funded trains, roads, hospitals.

    • Agree, just to prop up the education industry and the dodgy hospitality sectors, all for long-term losses to public services and amenity.

  10. I don’t understand how you can be permitted to claim asylum if you’re here for education reasons.
    Equally, how can China claim to be a developing nation when its building a massive army, navy and airforce whilst militarising the South China Sea?!

  11. Cameron Murray’s recent Twitter thread on the topic is fire:

    “A thread on my experience:
    1. 90% of students in my economics masters classes are international.
    2. Half of them struggle with basic English
    3. When I ask in tutorials why they are doing the degree, half tell me that they “need more points for their residency visa” (1/n)
    4. They tell me they choose economics because they can do the maths but don’t need to understand anything or write anything.
    5. I always set written essays or reports. Students tell me that they know other students are using paid ‘essay writing’ services to pass my class (2/n)
    6. If half the class can’t understand English it brings down standards. It must—unless I fail half the class.
    7. Think about the incentives—a casual lecturer who costs $25,000 fails 50 students paying $250,000. Change lecturer next year or reduce intake to keep standards? (3/n)
    8. It is frustrating when top international students from foreign governments/central banks come to your class, then sit next to rich Chinese (almost always Chinese) who can’t understand a word and are there to buy a visa (4/n)
    9. The evidence shows the effect on standards is real.
    None of this is a secret. That research is from 2011. Here’s an article from 2014:
    10. Unfortunately, this reality conflicts with the widely believed myth that our immigration program brings in “high skilled” workers.
    11. 350,000 international students paying $25,000+ per year to study is $9billion being pumped through our top dozen universities. (6/n)
    12. Halving the number of international students would keep all the good students, boost standards for all, and remove the visa scams.
    13. But this would remove $4.5billion per year of revenue to the universities. (7/n)
    14. In sum, universities are being degraded so they can be used as a back-door immigration program, and no one at the senior levels of universities or major political parties want to change it.
    15. It is nearly career suicide for younger academics to say anything about it (8/8)

    I forgot to add that almost every student I failed or called out for plagiarism got second and third chances until they passed. After the first chance it is taken out of my hands to higher ups at the faculty.”

    • There is $4.5b in fat that can be trimmed from Universities, starting with bloated salaries often above private sector rates. Most universities are paying staff above the required salary scale under EBA classifications and a lot don’t have a robust remuneration policy.

  12. Why the hell do we let these scammers appeal? Put them on the next flight home and tell them to fvck off.

  13. We have two convoluted problematic situations here.
    High wealth students (?) who are seeking a family beach head offshore for financial motives.
    Low wealth students (?) who are here to work low wage (relative to home country) jobs to repatriate money to home country.

    That they should be allowed to work whilst studying in there semester period should be banned with deportation. Working semester breaks would be ok.

  14. Are you guys on MB crazy?
    RE’s circling the drain, mining’s on life support. The only thing Australia does for cash that is left is degrees for visas. Make it less attractive, and that’ll be the whole economy.

    • That’s a bit like telling a junkie that they should stick to prostitution to pay for their habit.

      I’ll tell you what’s economic madness: deliberately adding millions more people to a country that is dependent on the export of fixed finite resources. We are diluting our per capita export wealth at breakneck speed.