Abroad and fraud: avoid migration scams
Fraud is a criminal offence in Australia, and that includes the migration process. Migration fraud includes document fraud, where visa applicants are responsible for the information contained within, even if someone completes it for you.
Identify your identity – watch for fraud
Becoming a victim of migration fraud could mean you lose money, your visa and your identity. It is very important to watch out for fraudulent activity when applying for any Australian migration visa. It is recommended to always seek legitimate legal advice from a qualified solicitor. Generally, when applying for an Australian visa, it is important to keep records of your information and documents. Be wary of those who offer legal and immigration services for cash only and do not issue a receipt or statement of services/fees, charge higher than those of the industry [your legal advisor will be able to produce information of a list of fees]
Online and on the line
Fraud can occur anywhere and anytime, whether it is in person, on the internet, by post, via telephone or email. The internet is a particular vulnerable area because it is difficult to find out if the website or person you are emailing is legitimate. The internet is also a very easy way to obtain personal information to commit identity fraud and credit card information when requesting “payment” for the visa. It is always advised to speak with a lawyer you know and trust to avoid these fraudulent situations. Be sure to watch for suspicious websites [most Australian government websites end in .gov] and emails [make sure the email is addressed to you and not in vague terms].
In Australia, there are strict rules about helping someone with their visa application or provide ‘immigration assistance’. People who help you with a visa application, and claim to be qualified to do so, are breaking the law. There are fines over $6,000 or imprisonment for up to 10 years. There are also civl penalties.
Under section 276 of the Migration Act 1958, “immigration assistance” is when a person uses knowledge of, or experience in, migration procedures to:
- help to prepare a visa application;
- advise a visa applicant about his/her visa application;
- help to prepare a document in connection with sponsorship of an applicant or their sponsor; or
- prepare for proceedings or represent applicants before a court or review authority.
Activities not regarded as “immigration assistance” are:
- clerical work to prepare or help prepare an application or other document;
- providing translation or interpretation services to help prepare an application or other document;
- advising a person that they must apply for a visa; or
- passing on information produced by a third person, without giving substantial comment or explanation.
Certain people can help you with a visa application and are exempt from any qualification/registration laws:
- close family member (spouse, child, adopted child, parent, brother or sister);
- sponsor or nominator;
- official acting in the course of their duties; and
- member of a diplomatic mission, consular post or international organisation.
Education agents cannot give immigration assistance. It is, however, always best to seek advice from a solicitor specialising in Australian immigration law.
It is a serious offence to misrepresent yourself, or one of your family members when making an application for an Australian visa. This includes making false or misleading statements, or submitting false information or false documents with your application. Even if someone else completes your application for you, you are responsible for it.
Certain visa applications to be refused where false or misleading information is provided to the department. It is often advised it is better to explain why you do not have a document than to submit a false document with an application.
To prevent any risk of document fraud, it is recommended to speak with a lawyer specialising in Australian immigration law to review your visa application.