Company fleeces visa hopefuls
AN ONLINE business that charges up to $580 for Australian skilled migration visas that are never delivered is being investigated by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
The Australia Institute of Immigration, or AUSIOM, claims to provide an application service for the visas and charges between 39 ($70) and 324, to be paid by credit card.
A departmental spokesman said applicants had been fleeced for hundreds of dollars and received nothing in return.
-We have several complaints from various parts of the world, including the Middle East and Asian countries, about them and we’re investigating, he said. -We’ve also received complaints from people in Australia.
But the Government is powerless to do anything if the company is offshore, as it is believed to be. -All we can do is encourage people to report it to their local authorities, the spokesman said.
On the company’s site the terms and conditions state it is not affiliated with the Australian Government and that -every matter arising from the site or its services, including disputes and demands, shall be governed by the laws of Cyprus.
The only Australian phone number for the company is for a Sydney call centre. The receptionist told the Herald she took calls for a number of overseas businesses and that the company headquarters -were in Israel somewhere.
The format of the site is similar to a number of bogus websites charging people for visas to the United States, as reported in the Herald last month.
Many people tricked by the AUSIOM site have posted their stories on internet travel forums.
-My friend just used the group to apply for a permanent visa. She paid like $350 to apply and they said if she doesn’t do it now then she can’t apply again for a few years, wrote one commenter on a Yahoo forum.
Another said the company had called them at home claiming to be an Australian government official and had pressured them for credit card details.
The chief executive of the Australian Migration Agents Registration Authority, Maureen Horder, confirmed the site was not registered to operate in Australia. She said the name of the company was very similar to the Migration Institute of Australia, a legitimate group representing registered agents.
-Our concern is it’s a name that is so similar, especially to non-English-speaking people, that it could really give them a credibility that they don’t have, she said.