As part of measures to cleanse the immigration system, Australia has re-registered agents providing e-visa service to Indian students, recognising only 22 companies out of 121 which expressed an interest from across the country.

The measure would tighten the process of immigration as questions were raised over the credibility of several agents in India who were allegedly breaching the system and sending students on fake documents.

The Australian government earlier this year asked all student e-visa agents — including registered migration agents operating within the country and education agents operating outside — to re-register themselves under the new agreement, which clearly included a code of conduct.

The earlier access agreement was terminated and the government asked all education agents to submit fresh expressions of interest. While 121 service providers expressed interest, only 22 were registered after a process.

The focus shifted to immigration following the increasing number of attacks on Indians last year, and after several private colleges closed down leaving students stranded. The number of Indians seeking admission to Australian colleges dropped this year following large-scale media coverage of the attacks.

“For agents operating within India, the Australian High Commission in New Delhi manages re-registrations. New Delhi has re-registered 22 agencies to lodge student e-visa applications,” the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) said.

A DIAC spokesperson said all agents were invited to attend information sessions organised by the department's New Delhi post on the new deed of agreement and re-registration.

New rules

Under the new agreement, the agency should have adequate training of staff in the Australian international education industry and in the immigration systems and processes, as well as appropriate record-keeping systems.

There must be a code of conduct for employees and a positive record in dealing with the Australian government, and agents should be of good character.

All agents who attended the sessions were invited to lodge an expression of interest with the Australian High Commission in New Delhi. Those who submitted expressions of interest were assessed, and strong performing agencies invited to sign the deed of agreement.

The DIAC said all successful e-visa agents were subject to regular audits to assess whether they would continue to meet the terms of the deed of agreement.

There would be regular audits of registered agencies and the Australian government would analyse their performance against the terms and expectations of the deed of agreement.

“The government also carefully assesses all applications from agents to ensure that applicants meet requirements for grant of student visas. These include that the applicant has a genuine intention to study in Australia and has not provided false or fraudulent information,” the spokesperson said.

It is expected that agents would verify information provided as part of an application and also provide assurances that they have performed verification checks.

Cleansing industry

According to education agent and managing director of Global Reach, Ravi Lochan: “I fully agree with the DIAC's efforts at cleansing the industry and focussing more on the integrity issues than the mere volume of visa lodgements. Several measures are in place now.”

He said: “The packaging loophole has been plugged and the message is clear that Australia welcomes Indian students, but only quality students aiming for quality institutions with education as the prime goal.”

Mr. Lochan said: “Some 120 expressions of interest were received by our New Delhi post. All were assessed against a range of objective criteria, and a shortlist of successful agencies was developed.”

The new agreement refers to transparent procedures for the provision of audits and any sanctions that an agent may incur if they breach the terms of the agreement.