New $10,000 visa scam to get into Australia
Maritime crew visas are being used to smuggle people into Australia with would-be asylum seekers posing as workers on board cargo ships.
So rife is the suspected rorting of the Subclass 988 Maritime Crew visa, Australian authorities have issued warnings scammers were trying to impersonate the Home Affairs website.
News Corp Australia can reveal people smugglers as well as international crime syndicates are charging up to $10,000 for the visas.
Maritime crew visas can be obtained online from outside the country and they allow holders to enter and leave Australia multiple times over a three-year period - if they arrive by sea on a non-military ship such as cargo, luxury or cruise ship. It is also for the partner or dependent child of a foreign crew member travelling with them.
In the past financial year Home Affairs issued 347,744 Maritime Crew as well as transit visas.
It cancelled 103 Maritime Crew visas over the past three years it suspected of being fraudulent.
Home Affairs has already posted a warning on LinkedIn acknowledging scammers are trying to impersonate the Homes Affairs website by copying it.
But the scam is not just concentrating on the Middle East, there are unscrupulous agents and crime gangs in the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka selling the visas to vulnerable people desperate to reach Australia.
They are known to be charging people large sums of money to arrange an employment contract and visa for employment on maritime vessels travelling to or working in Australia.
Some of the crew visas are automatically granted online and the agents are luring people by showing them what appears to be valid visas on the departmental website.
However, if it is discovered the visas are obtained based on fraudulent claims they are cancelled. Maritime crew visas do not allow the holder to fly into Australia.
But it is the visas from the Middle East that have raised serious concerns that places on ships are being arranged so people can enter Australia and make claims for another visa or asylum or just disappear.
News Corp has seen visas obtained for a 22-year-old Syrian woman and a Lebanese man believed to be arranged by a Beirut operator who sources say is linked to the militant arm of the Lebanese group Hezbollah.
Sources revealed the Lebanese man has been told he will be placed as a crew member on a cargo ship and when he arrives in Australia, he should disembark and apply for a residency visa.
The visa acceptance letter for the Syrian woman sparked concerns the Department of Home Affairs website, where the visa applications are made, might have been compromised.
Almost 40 people from Syria and Lebanon are understood to have applied for Maritime Crew visas in the past two years.
Specialist immigration lawyer Anne O'Donoghue from Immigration Solutions said it is "a big concern that the documents look so legitimate."
"People may be lulled into thinking they are plausible," Ms O'Donoghue said.
The revelations come as News Corp last week revealed government department websites including Homes Affairs are at risk of being commandeered by criminals because they have failed to adopt their own security protocols.
Twelve of 14 federal government departments were discovered not blocking domain spoofing emails, leaving them vulnerable to be mimicked by criminals trying to trick people into giving up vital identity details.
This is despite the Federal Government's own cyber security domain guidance issued four years ago.
Adelaide woman and business coach Priya Jaganathan made a YouTube video warning about the scam after her Sri Lanka-based brother applied for one of the visas only to later learn he was dudded.
Home Affairs has also put out warnings through Australian embassies that unscrupulous agents are luring gullible clients by showing them what appears to be valid visas on the departmental website.
Originally published as New $10,000 visa scam to get into Australia