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An Indian woman whose visa application was refused due to fraud by her migration agent has received a reprieve from the court after a lengthy legal battle against the Department of Home Affairs.
When Harpreet Kaur went to S&S Migration in March 2011, she was looking to have her student visa extended after she had to defer her hairdressing course due to pregnancy. However, Jeetender Ajjan, the operator of the migration agency, told her she could get a work visa, instead of a student visa, and applied for a post-study visa as a hairdresser on her behalf even though she hadn’t completed her course.
Ms Kaur said she paid $1,500 and gave her passport for submitting the application.
Unbeknown to her, the migration agent falsely claimed in the application that Ms Kaur had a positive skill assessment and provided a false reference number. S&S Migration did not disclose to the immigration department that they were acting on behalf of Ms Kaur. They also included what looked like a personal email address for Ms Kaur to receive correspondence with regard to the visa, but Ms Kaur gave evidence that this was not her email address.
Ms Kaur engaged another migration agent when she became aware that Jeetender Ajjan had fled to India with her wife – a former Immigration official – after a widespread fraud involving hundreds of visa applications and millions of dollars. The immigration department found her application among other documents at S&S Migration.
The Department refused her visa application in May 2012 on the grounds that she provided false and misleading information by claiming she had a positive skill assessment when the Trades Recognition Australia said they never issued her one.
Her appeal in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, where she claimed she was unaware of the false information provided by her agent, was refused and subsequent appeal in the Federal Circuit Court was also refused, not once but twice.
The Federal Circuit Court of Australia Judge said Ms Kaur was “indifferent” to the fraud by her agent and waited to see if she was “lucky enough” to get a visa. The Judge said Ms Kaur was not a “witness of truth” and could have withdrawn her application when the immigration department informed her about the fraud committed by her agent.
She told the court that the new migration agent said there was nothing she could do other than to wait for the decision on her visa application.
The Federal Court of Australia upheld Ms Kaur’s appeal in a decision last month and accepted that she was not aware of her agent’s fraud. The Court said the “unchallenged and uncontradicted” evidence was that her new migration agent did not advise Ms Kaur to withdraw her visa application.
It was also accepted that the email id in Ms Kaur’s application was wrong and she did not receive the department’s email seeking her comments on adverse information.
The Federal Court said the decision by the Federal Circuit Court that heard Ms Kaur’s appeal twice, was “erroneous”.
The ‘most sophisticated immigration fraud’
The migration agent that Ms Kaur went to later become known for running a migration scam that some call the most sophisticated immigration fraud in Australia which involved using stolen official stamps and equipment to forge documents, and overseas workers and students paid large sums to obtain visas to which they were not entitled.
S&S Migration was run by Jeetender Ajjan and a registered migration agent Mahim Sodhani. Fairfax Media reported that investigators found nearly $500,000 in cash and equipment stolen from the Immigration Department in a raid on the home of the Ajjans.
Reetika Ajjan – an Immigration Department official – and her husband Jeetnder fled to India just days after S&S Migration office was raided in October 2011. The couple reportedly wired $1.2 million to overseas bank accounts before leaving Australia.