Australian student visas a haven for rorters and slave traders


Last year, Julian Hill, Labor’s federal member for Bruce, claimed Australia’s international education sector had degraded into a “ponzi scheme” by luring overseas students to Australia with easy work rights and permanent residency.

Hill contended that Australia’s extensive work rights and the carrot of permanent residency were being “misused” by “agents in many parts of the world who are flogging our precious student visa as some kind of cheap, low-rent work visa”.

“We know that the incentive of a permanent visa to Australia is like a golden ticket from Willy Wonka’s chocolate bar”, he explained.

Phil Honeywood, CEO of the International Education Association of Australia, the industry’s main lobbyist, agreed with Hill.


Honeywood also referred to the international education sector a “ponzi scheme” and a “race to the bottom”.

Over the weekend, The SMH reported how dodgy migration agents had lured fake ‘students’ with zero English language skills to Australia to work as slaves for low-pay.

The article centres around Yongge “Henry” Qi, who came to Australia to study a marketing and communication course, but ended up working in a suburban car window tinting factory seven days a week for $5 an hour and was fed rotten scraps:


“Qi’s ordeal is another example of the industrial-scale rorting of Australia’s student immigration system exposed by this masthead and confirmed in two recent federal government reports”.

“His student visa was arranged by NewStars, the largest Chinese migration agent registered with the federal government, which boasts that it has assisted more than 30,000 migrants”.

“An investigation by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes can also reveal that influencers on Chinese social media apps with hundreds of millions of users are luring people to Australia with false promises of permanent residency”.

“The misuse of education visas is one of the rorts that have allowed criminals to traffic large numbers of people into the country to be exploited”.

“A recent report by former police chief Christine Nixon also showed “grotesque” abuses of the visitor and asylum visa systems”.

The Albanese Government claims that it has clamped down on the rorting.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said the Albanese Government would deliver “systemic reform … to build a migration system which protects workers and delivers for the national interest”.


It is hard to take Labor seriously given Prime Minister Anthony Albanese only recently signed migration agreements with India that, among other things, will grant Indians automatic five-year student visas and eight-year post-study work visas.

Thus, the international student “ponzi scheme” will roll on, and Indians willing to work at far lower wages will price young Australians out of rental homes and jobs, and capital city infrastructure will strain under the weight of thousands more people.

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.