Australia is a great place to visit – but don’t get caught up in a visa scam — Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia

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DECEMBER 18 — Australia is a popular destination for relaxation, leisure and sightseeing for many Malaysians every year.  Indeed, more than 370 000 temporary visas were issued to Malaysians for travel to Australia in the 2016-17 financial year. That large movement of people back and forth represents a flow of ideas, experiences and friendships that the Australian Government enthusiastically encourages.

However, there can be another side to this story. Some Malaysians who try to work in Australia have found themselves instead caught up in a visa scam. That often doesn’t end well and, as the Australian High Commissioner, it is something that concerns me greatly.  In my time here, I have come to know many Malaysians as friends and colleagues. Malaysians are a wonderful people and the Australian Government does not want to see them exploited in visa scams by unscrupulous people.

How does this happen? Unfortunately, criminals operating in both Malaysia and Australia are actively targeting Malaysians to take advantage of their wish to work in  Australia.  They trick them into thinking that certain visas can be used for work, when they can’t. We want to stop that – immediately, permanently.

Most Malaysians are eligible to travel to Australia on an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), obtained online from the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection. The ETA system provides Malaysians with a quick and easy way to apply for a visa to travel to Australia.

But it is really important to understand that an ETA is intended for short-term stays only for tourism or temporary business visits. An ETA allows you to attend a business conference or conduct contractual negotiations for a short period but it does not carry any right to work in Australia.

So just to repeat that, ETAs do not allow you to work in Australia.

If you want to work in Australia, you have to apply for a different, appropriate visa. It is also important to understand that ignorance about the conditions that attach to your visa is no excuse. Ignorance will not protect you from being detained and deported under Australian law.

Despite this clear advice, some Malaysians are being targeted by criminal syndicates who offer an ETA and flights to Australia to undertake work illegally. This is a scam.

The Australian Government is urging all travellers to ensure they understand what their visa or ETA allows them to do while in Australia.  We don’t want you, your family or your friends to be caught up in this racket.

Some people might think they can take a chance and get away with it.  My simple advice – don’t.

Not only will you face the risk of detention and deportation when caught, you also might be banned from coming back to Australia for three years.

Moreover, people who engage in illegal work in Australia are usually paid very low wages. They are often forced to pay back part of their wages by exploitative employers, and often end up with very little money in their pocket themselves.

Some exploited workers may find themselves living in poor conditions in remote parts of Australia without support.  In the worst cases, people engaging with illegal work organisers can find themselves having to pay off a debt, while being held against their will—this is called debt bondage, and it is a form of modern slavery.

Australian authorities take exploitation very seriously. We don’t want it to happen, and we investigate and prosecute offenders. Organisers of visa fraud or illegal work face penalties of up to ten years’ imprisonment, or fines up to $A210,000 for individuals and more than A$1 million for companies.

Unfortunately, though, authorities are still identifying victims who have been exploited in a number of industries like agriculture, construction, hospitality and the sex industry.  The Australian Border Force (ABF) recently investigated more than 50 properties around Australia, locating more than 220 illegal workers—some of whom were Malaysian. That’s not something any of us want.

Instead, we want our tourism and people-to-people links to keep on growing each year, legitimately, safely and for both our countries’ benefit. If you hear about an easy way to get work in Australia, it’s probably someone trying to trick you. Avoid it at all costs. And we look forward to welcoming you, your family and your friends to Australia well into the future.

Where to find or report information about visas and work scams:

Information on proper processes and official channels to apply for Australian visas in Malaysia are set out at:

·         The website of our service delivery partner, VFS Global, which operates the Australian Visa Application Centre in Kuala Lumpur: www.vfsglobal.com/australia/malaysia/index.html.

·         The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s website: www.border.gov.au

If you are aware of, or suspect a scam in relation to Australian visas, you should inform the Australian High Commission, Kuala Lumpur by sending an email to [email protected] or by making a report to Border Watch - www.border.gov.au/report. Your report will be treated confidentially.

*This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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