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    When an international student isn’t an international student

    The realities of international student visa fraud have caused many governments to start cracking down on unsuspecting prospective students and universities. The United States, Australia and Canada are some of the countries which have tightened their rules to deal with such cases.

    The chance to be immersed in a new culture, learn a language or travel the world is understandably enticing. However, with international fees, cost of living increases and the expense of physically travelling to faraway lands, this dream isn’t always realised. But for the students that can take that leap of faith, the rewards, both for their personal and educational development, are endless.

    However, not all students have genuine motivations to study abroad, with some students falsifying applications about their level of English and some abandoning their university studies altogether to pursue work. Other, unsuspecting students also become embroiled in fraudulent scams.

    For example, the F-1 visa programme allowing international students to work at firms in the US after graduation has been exploited by fake companies providing false employment verifications, according to an NBC News/NBC Bay Area report.

    Once they have obtained their professional degrees, students may remain in the US through the F-1 visa programme to get practical work experience. Although many students, schools and employers use the programme legitimately, a federal prosecution revealed the potential for fraud, with a defendant, the founder of bogus company ‘Findreams’, admitting in court papers she had provided false employment records for nearly 2,700 students.

    Governments across the globe have become savvy to the lengths supposed students and fraudsters will go to commit visa fraud, and they are cracking down.

    In August, the Australian government said it would close a loophole – effective immediately – in its visa rules which allowed international students to enrol for cheaper vocational courses as soon as they arrive in country. Through the ‘concurrent study’ rule, international students could undertake additional courses alongside their core studies, essentially helping students prepare for the job market through short courses.

    However, recent investigations in the country found that many students were misusing the rule and dropping out of their university courses to permanently switch to cheaper ones. Data from the investigation found a sharp uptake in the use of concurrent study, with 17,000 concurrent enrolments created in the first half of 2023 versus 10,500 for the same period in 2019 and 2022 combined.

    Education Minister Jason Clare said in a statement: “This change will work to stop predatory ‘second’ providers from enrolling students before they have studied for the required six months at their first provider.”

    But this isn’t the only change the Australian government plans to make surrounding student visas. From October 1, 2023, the government will also increase the amount of savings international students will need to get a student visa. Depending on their institution and country of origin, foreign students will need to declare or provide evidence of having AU$24,505 (US$15,693) in savings, a 17 percent increase on current levels due to higher living expenses in the country.

    Policing student visa applications is no easy task, and unfortunately, some prospective students attempt to trick the system to land a spot on a university programme with no intention of studying at all.

    Read the full article from QS Insights Magazine, Issue 8.