BACKPACKER visas are being cancelled at the rate of one a day as young travellers lie to immigration officials and pay off bogus "employers" to extend their stay in Australia.
Rorting is rife across the working holiday program that grants travellers a second-year stay if they work for three months in rural areas - a scheme upon which labour-starved industries such as food-growing depend.
Figures supplied by the Department of Immigration show over the past three years, 1059 working holidaymaker visas have been cancelled - 38 per cent from South Korea, 22 per cent from Ireland and 20 per cent from Britain. A large number related to fraudulent information on first and second year visa applications, immigration officials said.
Six people were prosecuted for supplying false information to obtain a visa extension in the last financial year, three in NSW. Five of the matters were proven.
The Department of Immigration began investigating rorts surrounding the second-year visa in 2009. It followed the discovery of internet advertisements offering to buy or sell fraudulent documents, which allowed backpackers to falsely claim they had worked in rural jobs to extend their stay.
But despite the crackdown, travellers and those in the tourism industry say the fraud remains rampant.
One backpacker told the Herald she recently obtained a second-year visa by falsely claiming she had worked for three months on a farm south of Sydney.
She said for a fee, a farmer had agreed to hand over his Australian business number and lie to immigration officials if they called. His details had been passed among various backpackers, allowing them to apply for a visa extension. Farmers usually charged $400-$500, she said.
"It's quite well known. Some people don't like the idea of doing it because there has been a crackdown, but for people who have run out of time [before their visa expires], they all take advantage," the traveller said.
An Immigration Department spokesman said it was aware of such practices and was "targeting it as part of our fraud and integrity measures", but that the incidence of fraud was falling.