A former senior immigration official has warned that plans to outsource visa processing could undermine the integrity of the system, the Guardian reports.
Last February the Guardian reported that briefings by the Department of Home Affairs revealed that a successful private bidder could offset the $1bn cost of a new visa processing system by raising revenue through “premium services for high-value applicants”, different access based on applicants’ ability to pay.
Abul Rizvi, a former departmental deputy secretary with the Department, expressed concern about the prospect, because it could provide an incentive for companies to make the process easier for applicants who could afford the “fast lane”.
He was also concerned that “extraordinarily personal information” such as an applicant’s relationship status, job, income and health could be used by a commercial firm for marketing purposes.
His concerns are echoed by the Federation of Ethnic Community Councils of Australia (FECCA). FECCA chairwoman Mary Patetsos said she also opposed measures that could lead to an increased cost of visas, particularly for family and partner visas.
“Australia has a long-standing reputation for its impartial, fair and transparent immigration system,” she said. “It should not be put at risk.”
Premium services could undermine fairness, by limiting the opportunity to bring family to Australia to live or visit for extended periods to the wealthy.
The Federal Government has been “testing the market” for expressions of interest, but is unlikely to put such a plan into action until after the election in May.