Chinese Visa with Yuan (RMB) and Passport
Chinese Visa with Yuan (RMB) and Passport

The loophole foreign students are exploiting to stay here

Thousands of foreign nationals meant to be in Australia on short-term study visas are spending up to a decade in the workforce, with authorities powerless to stop the rort.

A Sunday Herald Sun investigation into student visas has discovered a system in crisis, with rejected international students spending up to five years appealing Department of Home Affairs decisions that they must leave.

While they wait for their appeals to be heard the rejected students are spending years on bridging visas, giving them unlimited work rights. Some of the most blatant rorts include:

- A Filipino woman who arrived in Australia in 2006 as a student and is fighting a decision to cancel her visa;

- An Indian student won three bridging visas despite no evidence of enrolments since 2017;

- A Nepalese man enrolled in five courses over 11 years before he was ­finally told to leave;

- A Chinese man still appealing a 2017 decision to revoke a visa he got using a fake degree.

Rejected international students are spending up to five years appealing Department of Home Affairs decisions that say they must leave.
Rejected international students are spending up to five years appealing Department of Home Affairs decisions that say they must leave.

There are now more than 10,000 students waiting for the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to review their cases, with the backlog blowing out migration hearing times to an average of 77 weeks.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said the government had "already taken action to help address the workload of the Migration and Refugee Division of the AAT, by appointing 33 additional members".

Another 11,000 migration matters - many of which are student visa appeals - are now clogging the Federal Circuit Court, blowing out average trial times to 18 months.

One Vietnamese "student" who ­arrived while John Howard was prime minister now has a four-year-old child born in Australia that could see her win permanent residency if she can delay her case until 2025. Children born in Australia to foreign ­nationals get citizenship at age 10.

There are now more than 10,000 students waiting for the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to review their cases.
There are now more than 10,000 students waiting for the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to review their cases.

There has been an explosion in student visa applications in the past three years, from about 375,000 in 2016-17 to more than 473,000 in the past financial year.

Less than 10 per cent of those are rejected, with the booming international student economy now worth $38 billion dollars a year to Australia.

Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said the "overwhelming majority of international students come to Australia, conduct their studies and return home". But he said there had been more scrutiny of applications and thus more refusals. Many of those people make up the 216,000 foreigners with bridging visas.

Shadow home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said the "health of Australia's migration system is dire" and there was no plan to "stop the spread of exploitation of temporary workers and the slavery-like conditions that have become all too common across Australia".

Australia recently tightened ­restrictions on student visa applicants from India, Pakistan, and Nepal.

 

CASE 1 - FIVE YEARS OF APPEALS

Arrived 2008 from India

Six VET course diplomas or certificates

Visa application rejected April, 2015

Appeal at AAT rejected November, 2016

Federal Circuit Court appeal rejected September, 2019

Federal Court appeal rejected February, 2020

 

CASE 2 - THE CERT III HOARDER

Arrived in Australia 2007 from Vietnam

Held student or bridging visas ever since

Has 4-year-old born in Australia

Finished four Certificate III or IV qualifications and a diploma over eight years

Student visa refused in March, 2018

Review at AAT heard December, 2019

Appeal likely

 

CASE 3 - TOO SICK TO FINISH DEGREES

Arrived in 2008 from Pakistan

Enrolled in multiple diplomas and degrees

Five significant periods without study "due to illness"

Visa refused 30 May, 2018

Decision reviewed December, 2019

Appeal likely

 

CASE 4 - THREE ENROLMENTS, ZERO DEGREES

Arrived from India May, 2016

Dropped out of course in 2017

Enrolled in three diplomas but never completed one

Visa cancelled in March, 2018

Review heard in December, 2019.

 

james.campbell@news.com.au



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