International graduates in Australia are vulnerable to exploitation by unethical migration agents, new research suggests.
Laws preventing Australian universities from giving advice on post-study work visas mean that international students looking to stay and work in the country often rely on information from migration agents, who, in some cases, can act unethically, according to a new paper published in interdisciplinary journal Evaluation Review.
The study, which drew on interviews with 50 university staff, migration agents and international graduates, found that many universities in Australia avoid giving advice related to temporary graduate visa applications due to legal restrictions.
In Australia, only registered migration agents are legally allowed to provide migration advice.
The authors of the study argue that this creates a “gap” between demand from graduates and the support offered by universities.
The research also found that some university staff felt their institutions lacked the resources to support international students’ next steps as they reached graduation, so that even in cases where staff are qualified to provide advice, the demand for this exceeds the staff member’s capacity.
As a result, students are left vulnerable to exploitation by migration agents.
The paper notes unethical practices by agents including aggressive recruitment, recommending further study based on the commission the agent would receive from doing so, and intentionally cornering customers into a position where they have “unwittingly engaged in the services of the agent before knowing the cost of the said service”.
“It would be interesting to see if these issues may be similar in other host countries”
Speaking to The PIE News, lead author Ly Tran said that although the research had found evidence of unethical agents, it is unclear how widespread the problem is.
The authors call for “collective action… to provide more effective support for international students who stay in the host country post-graduation”.
Specifically, they recommend partnerships between universities and legitimate agents, as well as monitoring and review of post-study work rights policy at government level.
While the study focuses on Australia, the authors note that it can “to some extent” apply to other study destinations.
“It would be interesting to see if these issues may be similar in other host countries with post-graduation visa policies such as the UK, Canada, NZ and the US,” Tran said.