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The great Australian tourist visa scam

By Murray Hunter - posted Monday, 5 August 2019

This business is worth in excess of AUD 50,000,000 per year to VFS Global.

On the surface, this appears to be an exercise in outsourcing with the objective of streamlining the visa application process. However, on further examination, concerns arise about the principle of competition, integrity of peoples’ personal data, and links to other data collection agencies.

The appointment of VFS Global as the sole service delivery partner to handle visa applications appears to break the doctrine of ‘free competition’ outlined in The Competition and Consumer Act 2010, which upholds anti-trust principals in the interests of fair and open competition.


The agreement between Home Affairs and VFS Global squeezes out many visa agencies that have been working with Immigration for years, to some degree marginalizing these businesses that have painstakingly been built up over the years.

However, the Act exempts the Australian Government and its agencies from scrutiny, where this immunity allows Home Affairs to appoint agents who practice monopolistic competition in an unfair way.  Under the monopolistic VFS arrangements Australian Immigration applies discrimination against applications lodged directly to them, by a factor of 3.

For example, a tourist visa through the Australian Immigration office in a consular office is advertised to take 30 working days to process, where VFS Global advertise that applications lodged through them will take only 10 working days. These advertised longer lead times by Australian Consular Offices effectively grant VFS Global a working monopoly on Australian visa applications.

Very little, if any benefit to anybody appears out of this agreement. There seem to be few labor savings for the Australian Visa offices at diplomatic missions, and no benefits at all to clients.  The agreement has effectively increased service charges to clients by up to 40%.

The structure of the Australian visa industry after the VFS agreement has dramatically changed, giving one firm an unfair advantage and shut out the others. The lack of general transparency of this decision has privately angered many immigration advisors and agents, especially with the way the agreement with VFS Global was created.

Who is VFS?


Visitors believe that the “Australian Visa Application Centre” is as its name suggests Australian. It is not.

VFS is supposedly just a collecting agency and we are told to trust that they will not copy or forward on collected data including biometrics. In the light of past security scandals involving VFS this trust is misplaced given issues including cases of confidential client data negligence, security compromises and data leakage associated with this contractor.

No consul interviews are undertaken whatsoever. VFS websites clearly state that the company has no say in the granting of a visa. VFS Global provides services such as dedicated visa application centres and websites, joint visa application centres, waiting lounges, online appointment scheduling facilities and courier pickup services.

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About the Author

Murray Hunter is an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis.

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