5. Education agents

5.1
During the course of this inquiry the Committee received representations from a number of international students with evidence alleging that education agents were operating in an unlawful and unethical manner.
5.2
While education agents were not the primary focus of this inquiry, the Committee considered that the significant amount of evidence provided by submitters warranted a closer examination of this issue.

Perception of education agents

5.3
Submitters generally held the view that international students were vulnerable, open to exploitation by unscrupulous education agents, and a lack of regulation enabled them to operate without any consequences for their actions.
5.4
Australia-China Migration Services (ACMS) believed that consumers were particularly vulnerable to the actions of either unregulated or off-shore education agents and education consultants.1
5.5
The Migration Alliance reported that they had experienced daily instances of students who had fallen victim to education agents noting that:
They've got no place to go, no mechanism of complaint, no follow-through, no regulation. No consequences means that you can really do what you like, that this is an open space.2
5.6
Ms Angela Chan, Dispute Resolution Pty Ltd, agreed that international students who engage the services of an education agent overseas encounter a whole series of issues on arrival in Australia around whether they've been enrolled, whether the enrolment fees have already been paid and processed.3
5.7
The Law Council of Australia (LCA) received reports from legal practitioners alleging that education agents had engaged in a range of inappropriate conduct:
advising/promising students that certain courses of study have permanent migration pathways but in fact do not. These courses also tend to be long in duration and financially lucrative for the education agent;
advising applicants to apply for student visas with the sole intention of ‘buying time’ to find a work or family sponsor;
advising applicants how to bolster or create stronger Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) claims when, in fact, these claims do not exist or are marginal;
failing to advise applicants that more beneficial visas may be available in the circumstances that better suit the student’s needs – for example, Work and Holiday or Working Holiday visas; and
deliberately advising students who are in genuine and ongoing partner relationships that they do not have enough evidence to prove the relationship, the consequence of which is that each applicant then has to apply for a student visa separately to enable them to travel together to Australia, which, in turn, doubles the commission income for the education agent.4
5.8
Mr Andres Sayago, Managing Director of an on-shore student agency, alleged that some education providers were allowing larger education agencies to behave unethically.5
5.9
Mr Sayago raised a number of additional concerns about education agents’ unethical behaviour stating that:
some education providers that are registered both in Australia and overseas sign agreements with education providers with their overseas business in an attempt to circumvent Australian regulations;
most student agencies are abusive and include very cruel conditions in the contracts;
student agencies provide fraudulent signatures on documentation; and
some agents blackmail their students when they want to change courses, education providers or when they decide to leave the country.6
5.10
When queried on whether there was a problem with education agents, the Department of Education and Training (DET) advised that they generally didn’t receive complaints about agents and referred to data from the Overseas Students Ombudsman that ‘complaints from students concerning an education agent represent, on average, less than two per cent of complaints closed each year.’7
5.11
The DET commented that they had not received any information on education agents that would cause any concern:
We don't have any information to suggest that that process is not working well, nor do our two regulators have much information to suggest that concerns about providers meeting their obligations to work with high-quality agents, to provide good advice to students and to not engage in misleading practices are an issue that is gaining in prominence.8

Education agents providing unregistered immigration assistance

5.12
Several submitters provided accounts of instances where education agents were going beyond their remit and providing unregistered immigration assistance.
5.13
The Migration Institute of Australia’s (MIA) members reported ‘wide spread unregistered practice associated with the education agency industry.’9 The MIA elaborated that:
Rogue education agents operate in a segment of the market where the legislative interpretation of what constitutes the difference between immigration and clerical assistance is either largely misunderstood or blatantly ignored. MIA members report that education agents prepare and lodge student visa applications, and then later employment and permanent residence visas once these students have completed their studies. These education agencies appear to do this with impunity.10
5.14
The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) and the Settlement Council of Australia (SCoA) recommended allocating resources to ‘investigate the volumes and patterns of education agents providing unlawful immigration services in Australia.’11
5.15
The LCA believed that the practice of providing unregistered immigration assistance went generally undetected:
…as education agents generally do not directly charge a fee for these services, or do not act as authorised recipients, and the applications are completed as though the student had completed the application themselves, by generating new emails and ImmiAccount logins.12
5.16
The LCA recommended increasing oversight and enforcement of penalties for providing unregistered immigration assistance.13
5.17
Lanso International Migration and Education Services (LIMES) believed that it was easy for education agents to act unlawfully through accessing the ImmiAccount portal.14
5.18
LIMES advocated for stronger protections for international students, particularly dealing with the education industry and recommended:
…stronger and wider public education or awareness on dealing with overseas students ethically and lawfully, particularly on the issue that it is unlawful for education agents to provide migration services, whether on their own or in a corporate business structure.15
5.19
Ms Jane Wilson (private capacity) reported an instance where an individual fraudulently created an ImmiAccount under another individual’s name.16
5.20
ACMS raised concerns about off-shore education agents including that they were providing additional services beyond their remit:
I have heard that such off-grid17 agents or visa consultants extend beyond administrative help to ghost visa applications for intending visa applications, easily done by setting up an Immi Account in the client’s name via [the] Home Affairs website.18
5.21
ACMS called for greater monitoring of the ImmiAccount system and restricting access internationally unless the individual / organisation is an Australian citizen or entity, subject to Australian law, and can be appropriately sanctioned or restricted.19
5.22
Mr Saikumar Iyer, a registered migration agent, agreed that only registered migration agents and legally exempt persons should be authorised to lodge visa applications through the ImmiAccount system.20
5.23
At a public hearing, Dr Anthony Pun commented on the difficulties in obtaining evidence of unlawful behaviour by education agents that operate overseas.
5.24
Dr Pun recommended that the OMARA liaise with education authorities to cross-check whether education agents are providing unregistered immigration advice and blacklisting those who do.21
5.25
In their submission SIS Consulting observed that statistics obtained from PRISMS indicated that 85 per cent of all international students were enrolled by an education agent.22 They alleged that 99 per cent of education agents were providing unlawful immigration assistance.23
5.26
The MIA asserted that there were two major barriers to combating unregistered practice by education agents including a:
lack of legal jurisdiction and regulatory power of the OMARA; and
lack of resources, and possibly motivation, on behalf of the Department to pursue these rogue operators.24
5.27
Members of the MIA were of the opinion that the Department of Home Affairs should develop a risk profile ‘for individuals, occupation and industries where the risk of unregistered practice is high, in a similar way to the risk profiling maintained for visa applications and sponsoring businesses, and regularly audit applications received from these sources’ to reduce instances of unregistered practice by education agents.25
5.28
Charles Sturt University (CSU) stated that education providers have ‘no visibility of agent misconduct across the sector’ and called for greater penalties for education agents that commit fraud. The CSU suggested that the Department of Home Affairs increase communication with education providers to notify them of any instances of misconduct by an education agent.26
5.29
CSU suggested that real time reporting of misconduct by education agents could be built into the Provider Registration and International Student Management System (PRISMS)27:
This would allow CRICOS [Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students] providers to share issues of misconduct thereby allowing enabling other Providers to be aware and make a decision on whether to recruit an agent or to increase monitoring of the agent performance. The reporting would need to include the agent details, office location, and the nature of misconduct, for example, course, fraudulent documents or non-Genuine Temporary Entrants (GTE), misleading marketing etc.28
5.30
The Independent Schools Council of Australia (ISCA) pointed out that the Department of Education and Training (DET) established an ‘education agent data project.’29 The project:
…enables providers to access performance data on the education agents they use. It assists providers to identify education agents, assess the performance of their agents and to identify those that may not be recruiting bona fide students or engaging in other types of ‘unlawful’ or unethical practices.30
5.31
The International Student Education Agents Association (ISEAA) noted that it had a number of members who were both education and migration agents and held a contrary view to other submitters believing that education agents giving migration advice was not a significant issue. The ISEAA did however suggest that this issue should be monitored and be kept as part of the dialogue with government and industry.31
5.32
In its submission the MIA reported that it had received anecdotal evidence ‘that around one third of education agents are also registered migration agents and legally permitted to provide immigration advice to international students in Australia.’32
5.33
The Department of Home Affairs stated that they were aware of anecdotal reports from registered migration agents about education agents providing unregistered immigration advice:
There is anecdotal evidence from registered migration agents to the Department through the OMARA that some education agents are providing immigration assistance unlawfully, and registered migration agents find it difficult to compete in this market.33
5.34
At a public hearing the Department of Home Affairs acknowledged that there were complexities, however, in determining whether education agents are providing immigration advice:
You would have seen in a number of submissions that there's some suggestion out there that education agents provide advice that looks like immigration advice. It's very difficult, I would suggest, for education agents who are seeking to provide a very holistic service to their clients where they assist with both the visa and also identifying an appropriate course for the individual. They are unable to assist with the visa application or provide immigration advice further than that. I know that there have been referrals through the border watch to the ABF around agents who have undertaken that kind of activity.34
5.35
They elaborated that it was difficult to identify instances of education agents providing immigration advice as many operate offshore and that ‘their relationship is solely with the education provider.’35 They pointed out that there is no form of registration for education agents and the OMARA has jurisdiction in circumstances where a migration agent is also an education agent.36

Regulation of education agents

5.36
As noted above, submitters to this inquiry held the view that education agents were largely unregulated. Several submitters suggested establishing a number of requirements aimed at increasing regulation, including a requirement that education agents be registered.

Registered education agents

5.37
Education providers that provide education services to international students are regulated under the ESOS Act and National Code. It is incumbent on the education provider to monitor and regulate their education agents. Submitters held the view that this regulation was largely ineffective and advocated for the registration of education agents.
5.38
The Migration Alliance put forward a view that the Department of Home Affairs was not properly regulating education agents:
It is the view of Migration Alliance that one of the significant barriers to the elimination or mitigation of fraud is the continued and inexplicable failure of the Department to regulate Education Agents and the failure to acknowledge that they inevitably provide immigration assistance.37
5.39
Mr Sayago stated that starting an on-shore international student education agent agency in Australia did not require any special permission or registration.38 Mr Sayago recommended that education agents comply with the same requirements as migration agents, adding:
The Government should require a unique identification for each student agency and each agent giving advice. Agencies should be tracked for Home Affairs, education providers and ombudsman purposes. Also, the business Directors, or at least one, should be a PR or a citizen.39
5.40
Mr Prasad Rane (private capacity) called for the regulation of agencies who supply international students to registered training organisations in Australia and the imposition of heavy financial penalties or cancelling their registration if they are found to be acting unlawfully or unethically.40
5.41
The ISEAA advocated for increasing the regulation of education agents as well as establishing requirements aimed at developing and promoting best practice principles within the education agent industry.41
5.42
ISCA suggested that education agents be required to ‘acknowledge the responsibilities of the National Code Standard 4 and the Agent Code of Ethics for Education Agents as part of their registration process.’42
5.43
Mr Sayago agreed with submitters’ views that education agents and their agencies should be regulated by a Federal Government authority.43
5.44
Ms Chan reported that education agents were offering unregistered immigration advice to their clients about visas, sponsorship and permanent residence.44
5.45
Ms Chan believed that there was a need for ‘anyone who is providing migration advice to be registered irrespective of whether they are lawyers, non-lawyers or education agents.’45
5.46
While agreeing that it would be beneficial for education agents to be registered, SIS Consulting proposed establishing a voluntary requirement for education agents to become migration agents only if they choose to.46
5.47
The MIA were however strongly opposed to a proposal put forward by some submitters that education agents be required to register with the OMARA believing that it would confuse consumers and ‘further stretch government resources.’47
5.48
In their supplementary submission, the MIA put forward their opinion that the current legislative powers for education agents were adequate:
The MIA asserts that sufficient legislative power to control the activities of education agents already exists under the ESOS Act [Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000]. The Migration Act 1958 also provides sufficient authority to prosecute education agents who provide unregistered immigration assistance.48
5.49
The MIA posited that there was a ‘lack of enforcement of the current regulatory requirements for education providers to adequately supervise the practices of their education agents.’49
5.50
CSU concurred with the view that the current registration requirements for education agents were adequate and that it had been their experience that there were very few instances of suspected professional misconduct.50 They elaborated that reviews of these instances found no evidence of fraud and that the CSU had ‘not discontinued a single agent for misconduct.’51
5.51
Acacia Immigration relayed their experiences speaking to international students and suggested that the responsibility for ensuring students obtain appropriate immigration advice should be placed with the education provider. They suggested that establishing new regulations that would require education providers to use migration agents would prevent education agents from providing unlawful immigration advice.52
5.52
When discussing whether education agents should be registered, the ISEAA commented that it might seem superfluous:
We do understand that asking education agents to become registered migration agents might have been the ideal situation, but it's a little bit unnecessary because the majority of education agents—90 per cent, in fact—do not have a migration licence and they don't plan ever to work with refugee tribunals.53
5.53
The DET were asked their view on the registration of education agents. They stated that both the Study in Australia website and education providers, as part of the legislative framework, publishes a list of agents. The DET added that, in addition to the publication of agents’ names, they were working towards publishing education agent performance data asserting that it was ‘the more powerful tool in the New Zealand model rather than the registration.’54
5.54
In their supplementary submission, the DET stated that it was ‘working across government to foster improved self-regulation by education agents’55 and highlighted a number of actions currently being implemented aimed at improving the activities of education agents, including:
exchanging data and intelligence with the national regulators – ASQA and TEQSA, and with the Overseas Students Ombudsman – to enhance collaborative regulatory activities, and increase the transparency of agent quality and performance; and
making more detailed reporting available to providers so they can better understand the performance of their agents.56

Committee comment

5.55
Publishing education agent performance data improves transparency; provides education providers a greater understanding about the work of their agents; and enables international students to make informed choices.
5.56
The Committee notes that on 10 October 2018, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, Minister for Education, committed to publish performance data on education agents in Australia’s international education system.57
5.57
Phase 5 of the publication strategy ‘will result in full publication of education performance data on a public website and will be completed by the middle of 2019.’58
5.58
The Committee believes that this strategy is long overdue. Information sharing provides greater transparency of education agent performance to international students, education providers and the wider community. The Committee recommends an enhancement to this strategy.
5.59
The Committee has formed the view that the website should contain a searchable education agent register to enable anyone to search on the performance of education agents operating in Australia and overseas. The register should also include information on whether the education agent has been sanctioned, suspended or had their written agreement with an education provider cancelled.

Recommendation 5

5.60
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government establish an education agent register which contains information on the performance of education agents operating in Australia and overseas. The register should include information on whether the education agent has been sanctioned, suspended or had their written agreement with an education provider cancelled.

Visa application process

5.61
Immigration New Zealand and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will not accept visa applications from unlicensed people.59 The MIA, Fragomen Australia, Mr Saikumar Iyer, and the Migration Alliance all suggested Australia adopt this approach.60
5.62
The Migration Alliance suggested that all education agents, whether local or overseas, should be registered with the OMARA. They suggested that Australia should adopt the New Zealand and Canadian models that only permit registered agents to make visa applications.61
5.63
When asked whether the regulatory provisions the Canadian Government had in place to only permit registered agents to make applications on behalf of a client no matter the location would address the concern of overseas education agents, the MIA responded:
That's probably our area of concern—where those education agents are giving migration advice. The Canadian system would address that in terms of them lodging applications for people who are overseas. It wouldn't necessarily address the situation where an overseas education agent says, ‘If you go to Australia and do this course, it will have a migration outcome for you in the future.’62
5.64
At a public hearing, the DET were asked about whether New Zealand’s education agent regulatory system managed to overcome some of the concerns raised by submitters. They advised that they were aware about how other countries, such as New Zealand and Vietnam, regulated education agents but did not elaborate on whether those countries had overcome any of those issues.63

Challenges regulating education agents

5.65
Submitters identified a number of challenges in regulating and imposing sanctions on education agents, particularly those based overseas.
5.66
When asked on whether the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (OMARA) or another authority should regulate education agents, ACMS noted the difficulties in imposing sanctions or fines on international or offgrid agents:
I think the issue of how you deal with people who are off grid is really problematic. It's one thing to regulate and impose sanctions and restrictions on people you can see, but, when they're overseas, it's a whole other issue.64
5.67
When considering the proposal for the OMARA to have oversight of education agents, the ISEAA stated it would be problematic because:
…there are vast numbers of education agents offshore and outside Australian jurisdiction. Furthermore, the services and scope of the education agent go beyond migration and visas. In many cases, such as in the language travel industry, students are coming on tourist visas only to study English (ELICOS courses) and do not require migration services.65
5.68
The ISEAA added that the ‘additional cost of OMARA registered staff in Education Agencies would make the cost of business untenable, and threaten the productivity of the industry.’66

Additional regulation

5.69
The ISCA, MIA, ISEAA and Mr Sayago offered a number of additional recommendations regarding the regulation of education agents and education providers.
5.70
The ISCA and ISEAA suggested establishing a requirement that education agent agencies have an internal licensed migration agent directly employed by their company.67
5.71
The ISCA suggested linking ‘education agent activities of registered migration agents with registration practices and databases’ in order to analyse patterns of unlawful or unethical behaviour by education agents.68
5.72
The ISEAA and Mr Sayago advocated for increased education, training and resources to education agents to improve the quality of visa applications.69
5.73
Additional recommendations aimed at developing and promoting best practice principles within the education agent industry included:
that the education agency industry be investigated to determine the nature and extent of unregistered immigration practice occurring within that sector;
that the Department of Home Affairs implement a communications program to instruct education providers of the specific legislative parameters surrounding the provision of immigration assistance;
significant financial penalties be imposed on education providers for breaches of the Migration Act 1958 by their approved education agents;
model student agreements and client accounts between students and education agents on those currently being used by migration agents;
implementing a unique identifier for education agencies; and
restricting education agencies from accepting tuition fees.70
5.74
The DET has administration of the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000, the framework for international education in Australia which includes the management of education agents and education providers. The DET mentioned a number of recent developments concerning the management of education agents:
from 2018 a new section in the national code requires providers offering courses to overseas students to ensure their agents have appropriate knowledge and understanding of the international education system in Australia, including the agent code of ethics;
recent changes to the national code make it mandatory for providers to record details of the agents they engage PRISMS;
the department seeks to publish agent performance data in the longer term to assist providers and students to identify and choose the highest quality agents to work with.71

Additional concerns raised by submitters

5.75
Concerns were raised by some submitters regarding the current educational qualification requirements for education agents; consumer protection for international student’s payment of fees; and international students concerns about making a complaint against an education agent.

Educational qualifications and continued professional development

5.76
SIS Consulting pointed out that currently there is no legislative requirement for education agents to undertake relevant courses or to be registered to practice and that anyone, including international students and temporary visa holders, could become an education agent.72
5.77
LIMES recommended that education agents undertake annual continued professional development courses in addition to increasing public awareness campaigns on education agents unlawfully providing migration services.73

Consumer protection

5.78
At a public hearing, the MIA commented that there was a distinct lack of consumer protection for international students from education agents who were not passing on monies to education providers, particularly if they were based overseas.74
5.79
SIS Consulting put forward the opinion that international students had no consumer protection under the law and that education providers spend a lot of time policing agents instead of teaching.75
5.80
The ISEAA commented that, while there were risks to international students such as financial fraud with tuition and other fees, there had been a very small number of major reported incidences of education agents not passing on student payments that the industry had responded to quickly:
While there have been some recent incidents of education agents collecting fees for tuition, accommodation and health insurance and then not passing the appropriate fees to the provider, in reality there have been only 3 major reported incidents in the past 2 years out of the hundreds of thousands of cases managed by agents.76
5.81
When discussing the issues raised by submitters on agents not passing on students monies, the DET noted the outcome from an example in 2016:
The department worked very closely with the representatives of the students who were affected. The Overseas Students Ombudsman was involved, and providers met their obligations to students as a result of the framework that exists under the national code.77
5.82
The DET advised that the ESOS Act complemented broader legislative consumer protection:
The ESOS legislative framework is a complement to Australia’s broader consumer protections, and should not be seen as a substitute for broader law enforcement actions, which protect students and providers. Australian law enforcement agencies can pursue matters such as fraud under other legislation, such as the Commonwealth Crimes Act 1914.78

International students making complaints

5.83
The evidence in Chapter 2 of this report identified reports regarding unregistered individuals providing immigration assistance, including education agents.
5.84
Numerous submitters commented that the victims of unscrupulous and unregistered individuals were unlikely to make a complaint for fear a complaint could negatively impact on their visa application or that other reprisals would be taken against them.79
5.85
Two submitters noted that international students, like other victims, were wary of making a complaint for fear of losing their visa.
5.86
The ISEAA agreed with the view of submitters that students are afraid to make complaints because they are scared of the agent or to lose their visa. They recommended establishing an anonymous complaints line as an information gathering tool.80
5.87
Mr Sayago reported instances of students being unable to make a complaint due to coercion from education agent agencies threatening to cancel their visa and fear of being deported.81 He added that students are unwilling to report allegations of unlawful behaviour for fear of losing their visa or a lack of understanding on how to make a report or complaint.82
5.88
Mr Sayago suggested establishing a regulatory authority for education agents similar to the OMARA.83
5.89
The Commonwealth Ombudsman, as evidenced in Chapter 4, commented that it only received a very small number of complaints about education agents annually.84
5.90
The DET commented that it did not ‘have the role of investigating or handling complaints and we do not keep departmental data on complaints.’ They instead refer any complaints to the relevant education provider or ‘international education regulators, ASQA [Australian Skills Quality Authority] and TEQSA [Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency], as well as to state and territory school regulators as necessary.’85

Miscellaneous

5.91
In addition to the above, Mr Sayago identified a number of additional areas which he thought were gaps or issues in the international education system:
the Tuition Protection Service86 only protects students where their student agencies have transferred tuitions fees to the education provider;
international students with low levels of English competency are unable to understand the conditions in an education provider’s letter of offer;
students do not have access to their visa applications which are submitted by education agents and have limited recourse when an application is refused;
education agent are not required to have any training about visa applications.87

Committee comment

5.92
As noted above, this inquiry received an overwhelming amount of evidence raising concerns about the unethical and unlawful behaviour of education agents.
5.93
As Australia’s third-largest export sector and the country’s leading service export sector overall, it is crucial to protect both the reputation of Australia’s education export industry as well as ensuring that our consumers, the international students, are protected.
5.94
International students are socially, legally and financially vulnerable to exploitation from the actions of unscrupulous education agents.
5.95
Education agents are not currently regulated in Australia. There is no legislative requirement placed on education agents to have any technical proficiency through education; English proficiency; continued professional development; or even be an Australian citizen. Literally anyone can become an education agent.
5.96
Under the National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018, registered providers must ensure the education agents they engage with ‘have appropriate knowledge and understanding of the overseas education system in Australia, including the Australian International Education and Training Agent Code of Ethics.’88
5.97
Becoming proficient in any occupation requires appropriate education and training. Education and training are pivotal to ensuring that employees possess the knowledge necessary to effectively carry out their job duties. More needs to be done to ensure that education agents have the appropriate knowledge, training and experience to represent Australia’s international education industry and their education providers. Appropriately trained and educated agents would provide a higher standard of professional service, support and greater protections to international students.
5.98
The Committee recommends that registered providers ensure that education agents meet the following requirements prior to entering into a written agreement with each education agent that formally represents their education services: completion of a Government authorised education agent training course; obtain a IELTS 7 Academic or TOEFL result of 94; undergo a National Police Check with the Australian Federal Police; not have had their written agreement cancelled in the past 5 years.

Recommendation 6

5.99
The Committee recommends amending the National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018 to require registered training organisations verify that education agents meet the following requirements prior to entering into a written agreement with each education agent that formally represents their education services:
completion of a Government authorised education agent training course;
obtain a IELTS 7 Academic or TOEFL result of 94;
undergo a National Police Check with the Australian Federal Police;
not have had their written agreement cancelled in the past 5 years.
5.100
The Committee recommends that education agents complete a number of professional development activities each year. Registered education providers should be required to review written agreements with their education agents annually to ensure that they have the most up to date knowledge necessary to effectively carry out the duties of their job.
5.101
It is important to consult with registered training organisations and the education agent industry to determine what continued professional development activities would be most appropriate to complete.

Recommendation 7

5.102
The Committee recommends amending the National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018 to require registered training organisations to review written agreements with their education agents annually to ensure that education agents complete an appropriate number of professional development activities each year.
5.103
During the 2016-17 financial year, almost 75 per cent of all international students were enrolled by an education agent. This is a startling amount of consumers who are open to exploitation seemingly without very much protection.
5.104
The Committee notes that under the ESOS legislation, education providers are responsible for their education agent’s actions. However, the Committee received a significant amount of reports that providers were not taking any responsibility for the actions of their agents.
5.105
International students who made representations to the Committee had to take it upon themselves to seek assistance from the police to take appropriate action after receiving what appeared to be very little assistance from their education provider or the international education regulators.
5.106
It is clear that better protections for international students need to be established. In order to provide greater consumer protection for all international students, the Committee recommended establishing a statutory authority, the Immigration Assistance Complaints Commissioner. The Commissioner will detect, deter, disrupt, investigate and prosecute unregistered practice and will have the power to impose sanctions or fines to anyone who provides unlawful immigration advice, including education agents.
5.107
It is clear from the evidence that submitters are calling for greater monitoring of education agent compliance and to establish sufficient legislative powers to take action against agents who are found to be acting unethically, unlawfully or unscrupulously.
5.108
The Committee has therefore formed the view that it would be beneficial for the Australian Government to introduce a demerit point system for education agents who are found to be in breach of the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000, National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018, or Migration Act 1958.
5.109
The Committee examined comparable demerit point systems both within Australia and internationally and concluded that the sanction structure of the Approved Destination Status (ADS) scheme, administered by Austrade, would be an appropriate base model.89
5.110
As part of the ADS scheme, Australian inbound tour operators (ITOs) must conduct tour services for tourists in accordance with the provisions of ADS Code of Business Standards and Ethics.90
5.111
ADS ITOs are allocated ten points when approved to operate under the scheme. Any ITOs found to have breached a clause of the code are sanctioned and loose points. ITOs that continue to breach the code and lose all their points will be suspended for three months. After that time the ITO will be allowed back in the scheme with a 12-month probation period and five points. If an ITO’s points balance reaches zero again, their approval is cancelled.91
5.112
The committee recommends that the Australian Government introduce a demerit point system for education agents as part of the ESOS Act and National Code that is modelled on the ADS sanction structure.

Recommendation 8

5.113
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government introduce a sanction structure using a demerit point system for any education agent found to have breached the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000, National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018, or Migration Act 1958.

  • 1
    Australia-China Migration Services, Submission 24, p. 3.
  • 2
    Mr Christopher Levingston, Counsel, Migration Alliance, Transcript, 16 July 2018, p. 20.
  • 3
    Ms Angela Chan, Dispute Resolution Pty Ltd, Transcript, 16 July 2018, p. 14.
  • 4
    Law Council of Australia, Submission 18, pp. 12-13.
  • 5
    Mr Andres Sayago, Submission 37, p. 8.
  • 6
    Mr Andres Sayago, Submission 37, pp. 3-10.
  • 7
    Ms Karen Sandercock, Group Manager, International Group, Department of Education and Training, Transcript, 2 August 2018, p. 3.
  • 8
    Ms Karen Sandercock, Group Manager, International Group, Department of Education and Training, Transcript, 2 August 2018, p. 3.
  • 9
    Migration Institute of Australia, Submission 15, p. 51.
  • 10
    Migration Institute of Australia, Submission 15, p. 52.
  • 11
    Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia and the Settlement Council of Australia, Submission 8, p. 2.
  • 12
    Law Council of Australia, Submission 18, p. 13; ImmiAccount is an online services gateway for visa applications.
  • 13
    Law Council of Australia, Submission 18, p. 13.
  • 14
    Lanso International Migration and Education Services, Submission 29, p. 2.
  • 15
    Lanso International Migration and Education Services, Submission 29, p. 2.
  • 16
    Ms Jane Wilson, Private capacity, Transcript, 23 July 2018, p. 19.
  • 17
    An off-grid education agent is either an unregulated or off-shore education agent or education consultant.
  • 18
    Australia-China Migration Services, Submission 24, p. 3.
  • 19
    Australia-China Migration Services, Submission 24, p. 4.
  • 20
    Mr Saikumar Iyer, Submission 32, p. 1.
  • 21
    Dr Anthony Pun, Private capacity, Transcript, 16 July 2018, pp. 2-3.
  • 22
    SIS Consulting, Submission 38, p. 3.
  • 23
    SIS Consulting, Submission 38, p. 3.
  • 24
    Migration Institute of Australia, Submission 15, p. 56.
  • 25
    Migration Institute of Australia, Submission 15, p. 50.
  • 26
    Charles Sturt University, Submission 22, p. 2-3.
  • 27
    PRISMS is a secure electronic system for providers to: issue a 'Confirmations of Enrolment' to overseas students intending to study in Australia, and report changes in course enrolment.
  • 28
    Charles Sturt University, Submission 22, p. 2.
  • 29
    Independent Schools Council of Australia, Submission 9, p. 3.
  • 30
    Independent Schools Council of Australia, Submission 9, p. 3.
  • 31
    International Student Education Agents Association, Submission 39, p. 2.
  • 32
    Migration Institute of Australia, Submission 15, p. 51.
  • 33
    Department of Home Affairs, Submission 6, p. 24.
  • 34
    Ms Lesley Dalton, Regional Director NSW/ACT, Immigration and Visa Services Division, Department of Home Affairs, Transcript, 27 June 2018, p. 3.
  • 35
    Ms Lesley Dalton, Regional Director NSW/ACT, Immigration and Visa Services Division, Department of Home Affairs, Transcript, 27 June 2018, p. 3.
  • 36
    Ms Lesley Dalton, Regional Director NSW/ACT, Immigration and Visa Services Division, Department of Home Affairs, Transcript, 27 June 2018, p. 4.
  • 37
    Migration Alliance, Submission 21, p. 8; Mr Christopher Levingston, Counsel, Migration Alliance, Transcript, 16 July 2018, p. 9.
  • 38
    Mr Andres Sayago, Submission 37, p. 3.
  • 39
    Mr Andres Sayago, Submission 37, p. 3.
  • 40
    Mr Prasad Rane, Submission 35, p. 1.
  • 41
    International Student Education Agents Association, Submission 39, pp. 3-5; International Student Education Agents Association, Supplementary Submission 39.1, pp. 5-6.
  • 42
    Independent Schools Council of Australia, Submission 9, p. 3.
  • 43
    Mr Andres Sayago, Submission 37, p. 3.
  • 44
    Ms Angela Chan, Dispute Resolution Pty Ltd, Transcript, 16 July 2018, p. 18.
  • 45
    Ms Angela Chan, Dispute Resolution Pty Ltd, Transcript, 16 July 2018, p. 13.
  • 46
    SIS Consulting, Submission 38, p. 9.
  • 47
    Migration Institute of Australia, Submission 15, p. 55.
  • 48
    Migration Institute of Australia, Supplementary submission 15.1, p. 12.
  • 49
    Migration Institute of Australia, Supplementary submission 15.1, p. 12.
  • 50
    Charles Sturt University, Submission 22, p. 2.
  • 51
    Charles Sturt University, Submission 22, p. 2.
  • 52
    Ms Nicole Kirkwood, Manager, Acacia Immigration, Transcript, 23 July 2018, p. 19.
  • 53
    Mr Michal Sestak, Member, International Student Education Agents Association, Transcript, 19 September 2018, p. 6.
  • 54
    Mr Brett Galt-Smith, Director, Policy and Legislation Team, International Group, Department of Education and Training, 2 August 2018, p. 5.
  • 55
    Department of Education and Training, Supplementary Submission 17.1, p. 2.
  • 56
    Department of Education and Training, Supplementary Submission 17.1, pp. 1-2.
  • 57
    Department of Education and Training, Policy paper: Publication of education agent performance data, 11 January 2019.
  • 58
    Department of Education and Training, Policy paper: Publication of education agent performance data, 11 January 2019.
  • 59
    Immigration Advisors Authority, ‘The risks of relying on illegal advice’, viewed on 16 January 2019, <https://www.iaa.govt.nz/for-migrants/the-risks-of-relying-on-illegal-advice/>; and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, ‘Learn about representatives’, viewed on 16 January 2019, <https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigration-citizenship-representative/learn-about-representatives.html>
  • 60
    Ms Leanne Peta Stevens, National Vice President and Acting President, Migration Institute of Australia, Transcript, 16 July 2018, p. 8; Mr Simon Haag, Senior Associate, Fragomen Australia, Transcript, 13 July 2018, p. 14; Name withheld, Submission 11, p. 3; Mr Saikumar Iyer, Submission 32, p. 2; Migration Alliance, Submission 21, p. 8.
  • 61
    Mr Christopher Levingston, Counsel, Migration Alliance and Mr Jason Watt, Member, Migration Alliance, Transcript, 16 July 2018, pp. 18-19.
  • 62
    Mr Philip Duncan, Queensland Vice President, Migration Institute of Australia, Transcript, 16 July 2018, p. 9.
  • 63
    Ms Karen Sandercock, Group Manager, International Group, Department of Education and Training, Transcript, 2 August 2018, p. 4.
  • 64
    Mr Anthony Hinz, Principal, Australia-China Migration Services, Transcript, 23 July 2018, p. 18.
  • 65
    International Student Education Agents Association, Submission 39, p. 2.
  • 66
    International Student Education Agents Association, Submission 39, p. 2.
  • 67
    International Student Education Agents Association, Submission 39, pp. 3-5; International Student Education Agents Association, Supplementary Submission 39.1, pp. 5-6.
  • 68
    Independent Schools Council of Australia, Submission 9, p. 3.
  • 69
    International Student Education Agents Association, Submission 39, pp. 3-5; International Student Education Agents Association, Supplementary Submission 39.1, pp. 5-6; Mr Andres Sayago, Submission 37, pp. 3-10.
  • 70
    Migration Institute of Australia, Submission 15, pp. 54-55; International Student Education Agents Association, Submission 39, pp. 3-5; International Student Education Agents Association, Supplementary Submission 39.1, pp. 5-6; Mr Andres Sayago, Submission 37, pp. 3-10.
  • 71
    Ms Karen Sandercock, Group Manager, International Group, Department of Education and Training, Transcript, 2 August 2018, p. 2.
  • 72
    SIS Consulting, Submission 38, p. 2.
  • 73
    Lanso International Migration and Education Services, Submission 29, p. 2.
  • 74
    Ms Bronwyn Markey, Professional Support Manager, Migration Institute of Australia, Transcript, 16 July 2018, p. 9.
  • 75
    SIS Consulting, Submission 38, pp. 4 and 8.
  • 76
    International Student Education Agents Association, Submission 39, p. 4.
  • 77
    Ms Karen Sandercock, Group Manager, International Group, Department of Education and Training, Transcript, 2 August 2018, p. 5.
  • 78
    Department of Education and Training, Submission 17, p. 4.
  • 79
    Refugee Council of Australia, Submission 4, p. 3; Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Submission 10, p. 4; Humanitarian Group, Submission 13, p. 5; Migration Institute of Australia, Submission 15, p. 48; Mr Christopher Levingston, Counsel, Migration Alliance, Transcript, 16 July 2018, p. 20;
  • 80
    Ms Ana Regina DaSilva, Chairperson, International Student Education Agents Association, Transcript, 19 September 2018, p. 5.
  • 81
    Mr Andres Sayago, Private capacity, Transcript, 23 July 2018, p. 2.
  • 82
    Mr Andres Sayago, Submission 37, p. 7.
  • 83
    Mr Andres Sayago, Submission 37, p. 9.
  • 84
    Commonwealth Ombudsman, Submission 16, p. 6.
  • 85
    Ms Karen Sandercock, Group Manager, International Group, Department of Education and Training, Transcript, 2 August 2018, p. 3.
  • 86
    The Tuition Protection Service assists international students whose education providers are unable to fully deliver their course of study. It enables international students to either: complete their studies in another course or with another education provider or receive a refund of their unspent tuition fees.
  • 87
    Mr Andres Sayago, Submission 37, pp. 3-10.
  • 88
    National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018, Standard 4: Education agents, p. 2.
  • 89
    Australian Trade and Investment Commission, Approved Destination Status scheme: Compliance and demerit point system, 12 November 2018.
  • 90
    Australian Trade and Investment Commission, Code of Business Standards and Ethics for the Approved Destination Status (ADS) scheme, 19 January 2015, Version 3, p. 2.
  • 91
    Australian Trade and Investment Commission, Approved Destination Status scheme: Compliance and demerit point system, 12 November 2018.

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