Australia is receiving more and more visa applications. A positive development, one would think, but it is becoming increasingly clear that more than a few of these applications come from fraudsters, who want to abuse the Australia visa to stay in the country for longer than permitted.
More visitors and more fraudsters
The Australian government itself links the rise in applications to the growing number of tourists, but it is slowly becoming clear that the system is particularly sensitive to fraud. This type of fraud is seemingly primarily perpetrated by Malaysian people. ABC News recently revealed that at least 33,000 Malaysian people have abused the Australian visa system. This in turn has led to the Malaysian government urging its citizens to respect Australia’s visa laws.
How does it work?
The fraud focuses on the online travel authorisation for Australia, the so-called ETA (Electronic Travel Authority). With an ETA, travellers from other countries can enter Australia for various purposes. The ETA itself allows a traveller to stay in the country for a maximum of 3 months. People from just about any country can apply for an ETA, including Malaysians. What many fraudsters do is immediately submit a special protection application, which can allow them to live and work in Australia for up to 8 years. Because the immigration system of Australia is often overwhelmed by the number of applications, this type of fraud is frequently overlooked.
Targets for human traffickers
Unfortunately, by now the criminal underworld is also aware of this tactic, which makes these types of people (often poor workers looking for a better future) prime targets for human traffickers. For a large amount of money, these criminals can get these foreign workers into Australia, after which they are illegally rented off to factories, restaurants and other companies looking for cheap workers. Women often also end up in forced prostitution. These immigrants often live in particularly poor conditions.
eVisitor instead of the ETA
This fraud appears to exclusively focus on the ETA travel authorisation for Australia. Australia also offers another visa, the eVisitor, which is primarily used by tourists. The eVisitor has the benefit that it is cheaper and easier to apply for than the ETA. On the other hand, the ETA is available to a lot more countries. Travellers from countries like the UK qualify for an eVisitor, but for example travellers from Malaysia do not. That is why their attention is drawn to the ETA. As a result, Australia could tighten the rules surrounding the ETA significantly, making the eVisitor more popular. The Australian government has been under pressure to handle immigration, and news of such large-scale fraud will only add more pressure.