Beware of visa scams

There are many ways by which scammers prey on visa applicants. I will provide some examples of how these scammers lure potential visa applicants and how they usually operate. The intent of this article is to provide awareness of these schemes to identify the warning signs at the early stage of your visa application.
Here are the usual attributes of a potential visa scam.

1. Everyone is eligible to get a visa.

Scammers start with advertising for a visa type (for example, migration to Australia, Permanent Residency visa). The advertisement is usually done online which then checks your eligibility for the visa they are offering. These operators pretend as if they go through an eligibility assessment process but, they do not. You will notice that there is not much information required for the eligibility assessment and they usually respond instantly to let you know that you are eligible.
One way to test if the eligibility assessment that you receive is genuine, is to ask how they come up with the result– ask for a copy of the exact requirements for the visa you are applying for and assess yourself based on the requirements. You can also check the visa criteria from the Department of Home Affairs website at https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/ or ask for a second opinion from a Registered Migration Agent or an Immigration Lawyer registered at the Migration Agent’s Registration Authority(MARA) at mara.gov.au.

2. Payment is requested right away without a client agreement.

This is one of the key features of visa scams, payments are requested right away without being provided a list of services that will be provided for you. Some operators also ask you to transfer your payment to an overseas bank account (not located in Australia) or through a credit card payment. Do not send your payment without reviewing and approving your client agreement that lays out the responsibilities of your service provider, your responsibilities as a visa applicant and shows the itemized list of fees.
Issuing a client agreement is one of the duties of Registered Migration Agents or Immigration Lawyers registered with the MARA. See more information on https://www.mara.gov.au/using-an-agent/working-with-your-agent/what-to-expect-from-your-agent/.

3. The application process is unclear.

As a potential visa applicant, you should be informed of the steps of your application starting from visa preparation, lodgment, up to when your visa is decided on. Most scammers do not even know the exact process that is why they cannot give you a clear direction on how your application will be handled. Their usual answer when you ask about your application process details is that you should not worry as they are experts in this field and they will look after your visa application.

4. The visa outcome is guaranteed.

Since scammers pose as visa experts, they will usually guarantee that your visa application will be granted. Some of them might even tell you when you can exactly get your visa grant. One visa applicant told me that her visa adviser guaranteed the result of her visa application because apparently her adviser had a strong link with the Department of Home Affairs. Another visa applicant said that his visa scammer said that they had people at the Australian airport that would take them to the exit directly and that they did not have to go through immigration clearance. Of course, this scammer was nowhere to be found after he got an initial payment of AU$4,000 for what was supposed to be a work visa.
Note that as per the section 2.10 of the Registered Migration Agents’ Code of Conduct, RMAs must not guarantee visa results. Here is the link to RMAs Code of Conduct for more information.
https://www.mara.gov.au/media/553229/Code_of_Conduct_April_2017.pdf

5. You get job offers on roles not included on the applicable skills list.

This is the most attractive offer from scammers, an amazingly easy way to work in Australia. Note that getting a work visa in Australia is difficult as there are not many employers who are willing to provide sponsorship to people who are outside of Australia and that there are strict rules that should be followed when lodging the sponsorship and visa application.
I received an inquiry for a potential work visa applicant, and she said that she got a job offer from a large petroleum company in Australia as a Sales/Marketing Assistant. She was also asked to pay AU$1,000 so they could proceed with their job offer and the payment was to be sent to a UK bank account. I asked her to send me the job offer and the request for payment document. On her job offer, it was so obvious that the company’s logo was just pasted onto the document as it was highly pixilised; the Department of Home Affairs’ logo was also pasted on the visa information document and the visa application steps were totally different from the genuine application process.
If ever you get job offers to work in Australia, make sure you check if your role is on the list of occupations listed on https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2019C00265. Check as well if you can satisfy the requirements for the Temporary Skills Shortage (482) visa. https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/temporary-skill-shortage-4T82.
You can find more visa scam victim stories at https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/help-support/visa-scams/victims-stories.
Visa scams continue to operate and if you have been victimised, you can report it to the Border Watch Online Report by clicking the link https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/help-and-support/departmental-forms/online-forms/border-watch.
If you see any of these warning signs in your current visa adviser, it is recommended that you seek a second option from a Registered Migration Agent or an Immigration Lawyer.