Need to live in Australia? Buy a visa

In a bid to live in Australia, wealthy parents of international students are “buying” visas for their children.

Chinese parents have sought out willing local Australian companies, usually fronted by Chinese-born directors, and paid them fees of $60,000 to $80,000 a student to issue a “457 work visa” and a “job” in the company, migration agents and lawyers said.

After two years, the company will assist these graduates to apply for a permanent visa, usually the 186 employer-nominated visa category.

“I know one Sydney company which has hired 10 to 20 of these students over a period of three to four years,” an agent who did not want to be named said.

Other agents said there were “lots and lots” who have managed to work around the rules.

Most of the companies do not require additional staff, and so while the graduates’ names are on the payroll, they do not pay them wages, another Chinese migration agent said.

He is aware of at least 30 companies – most of them in real estate or export and import businesses – who are working around the rules.

“There’s a lot of them who do not get paid. They hold the visa, and go out and find cash jobs.”

In the meantime, the companies pay token payroll taxes and use the windfall they have gained from these “parental fees” to fund their businesses, he added.

Some employers, such as real estate agencies, get their “student employees” to sell apartments and houses, and pay them a less than commercial commission. These practices usually apply to new graduates. Other more qualified students might even be given senior roles.

“These companies would advertise the roles and then use fake Chinese qualifications to endorse the students for a visa,” he said.

“And do you know how many students are paying to study a masters or a PhD here?”

Chinese migration agency, Austar Group Sydney’s Larkin Gou, said he sometimes gets calls for these services, but declined to entertain them.

Sydney lawyer Jeffrey Lee, of Comasters Law Firm, who has also been approached by parents, and declined, said the problem was not as pervasive as it seems.

“It is not so easy to get a 457 visa,” he said.

“It costs about $6000 to $9000 for a lawyer’s services and Border Protection audit the visas. The integrity of the systems seems to be good, but you might get one in a hundred slipping through the cracks.”

Mr Lee also said most of these students and parents from Asia are not “criminals” but migrants who value an Australian permanent residency.

The attraction of Australia has also led to many Chinese migrants and investors looking for residential properties, their preferred asset investment class.

But there are also just as many legitimate hires for people with languages such as Mandarin to support the growing number of Asian investments in Australia, he added.

The number of Chinese businesses and investments in Australia has quadrupled over the past two to three years.

In 2015, the number of planned Chinese investments rose to $47 billion from $28 billion, according to the Foreign Investment Review Board.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection said it has no “substantiated evidence of the practice of wealthy foreigners paying local companies to hire their children”.

“The department routinely receives and investigates allegations regarding payment for visas from a variety of sources,” a spokesman said.

“Acting on intelligence received, the department routinely undertakes investigations to identify potential offences under the Payment for Visa legislation.”

In December last year, the department introduced new criminal and civil penalties for people who engage receive payments for visa activity.

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