by Pádraig Collins
AN Irishman was recently fined $1,400 and expelled from Australia after being convicted of immigration fraud.
The confirmation from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) followed a series of revelations in the Irish Echo of Working Holiday Visa (WHV) fraud among Irish backpackers.
Other Irish backpackers are under investigation for similar frauds, with one case already having been referred to the director of public prosecutions and 32 second working holiday visas being cancelled in NSW alone on the basis of fraudulent documentation.
The expelled man was convicted after admitting he bought employment verification details for a second-year WHV for $500. To get a second WHV backpackers must work for three months in agricultural or regional work during their first visa year. Typically this would involve fruit picking or working on a building site in a rural area.
But many, unwilling or unable to do the tough work required for the visa, have risked imprisonment for up to 10 years, and/or a fine of up to $110,000 by claiming they worked on a farm when they did not.
This work is ìprovedî through providing the Australian Business Number (ABN) of a farmer who has previously hired backpackers and saying you worked there too. This in turn led to a scam where people have been selling the ABNs of farmers for up to $500 each. This method has been advertised on backpacker websites such as Gumtree under headings such as ì2nd year visa, no problemî.
One Irish fraudster allegedly told clients who paid him $400 each for ABN details that DIAC checked only 10 per cent of second WHV applications.
Deidre Russack, director of the working holiday section of DIAC, told a backpacker conference that: ìThere’s a lot of fraud …they’re not working in regional areas… Immigration is trying to do something about it … There’s a lot of work going on in the department around this issue,î she said.
The fraudulent behaviour among some backpackers has made big news in Ireland in recent weeks, with The Irish Times, the Wicklow People and both RT… radio and television reporting on the scandal.
Of the 21,727 second WHVs granted in the year to June 30, 2009, a massive 4,425 were given to Irish people.
Only Koreans, with 6,079, got more than Irish people.
UK backpackers got 4,072 second-year WHVs.
The recent visa scam revelations has led to uncertainty among some as to the future of the second WHV scheme.
But Sydney-based immigration agent John McQuaid says it is just a rumour.
DIAC has made no statements that suggest this might happen. An in depth review of the working holiday visa programme conducted in February 2009 made no recommendations to change the system,î he told the Irish Echo.
DIAC has just introduced a new version of its employment verification form used to record regional work for a second WHV. The new form asks more questions aimed to assist DIAC case officers reduce the risk of fraudulent applications.