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Marriage scams

  • Reporter: Bryan Seymour
  • Broadcast Date: August 03, 2009

The last decade has seen a dramatic rise in spousal visa applications in Australia

In the last ten years, applications have jumped from 26,000 to 40,000 a year.

One of the favourite methods illegal immigrants use to scam permanent residency is to catch and marry single Aussies, but less than three-per-cent of these applicants are investigated.

Darwin man Neil Forsyth says he was targeted by a Thai woman, and after meeting her for only six weeks, she was pregnant and they were married.

"I've always liked Asian women and she was very clean, she wasn't a working girl, she was a very good cook, very good in the house," said Mr. Forsyth.

"I was led to believe she was an accountant, and she would pay for her own ticket out here."

"She loved Australia, and I was just the stepping stone to get there."

Mr. Forsyth has since been divorced.

Forsyth's now ex-wife Pharin lives in Darwin with her three-year-old daughter, but claims Neil was no great catch, and that's why the marriage broke down.

The Department of Immigration looked at Mr. Forsyth's claims and found no evidence to support the suggestion there had been any kind of marriage scam or fraud.

They say the two stage process is good deterrent to scammers, with the foreign spouses required to live with their partner for two years.

During that time they may be tested on their truthfulness by 'Bona Fide' units, set up across the country.

"Differentiating between love and fraud is not a given," says Sandi Logan from the Department of Immigration.

"What we are interested in determining is that the evidence and the paperwork and the documentation put before us is true and accurate that it is not a forged document."

Check out the documentary My Boyfriend the Sex Tourist

Some Thai women lead desperate lives and marrying a western man is sometimes their best hope out of hardship and misery.

In India, brides and grooms are contracted to marry, just so they can move here.

"If they are operating in India, or in China, or in Canada, or in the UK or anywhere overseas, our laws don't control their activities so it is a real challenge for us," said Logan.

There is also a hefty cost for scammers if they're caught, which can include and fine and also criminal charges under the Migration Act.

"Under visa fraud it can include cancellation of the visa, and ultimately removal from the country," said Logan.

It doesn't just happen to men. An anonymous woman tells the story of a man she met through an internet chat session, and although they are now estranged, her ex is being paid by Centrelink because he is now a permanent resident.

He married her and came here. As soon as the two years was up he left her and she discovered he was already married to a woman back home.

"I know her first name, I can't pronounce it because it's some Muslim name and I'm not racist by any means and I must stress that," said the woman.

She warns that men like this laughingly abuse our system, because we are "stupid enough" to offer welfare and worker's compensation.

"I can't say with certainty each and every partnership visa is not in someway or another contrived," said Logan.

"But in 99.9 per cent of cases we are quite confident that we have made the right decision to grant a visa or to reject a visa application."

Department of Immigration
Dob-In Line: 1800 009 623

Documentary: My Boyfriend the Sex Tourist (Used with permission of SBS)


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