Employment travel agencies/immigration agencies under scrutiny

15/04/2016 09:07

Consumers must take precaution before engaging the services of any travel agencies/immigration agencies who claim to successfully provide visas for skilled/employment migration. This call comes after the Council continues to receive complaints against fraudulent travel agencies that usurp thousands of dollars from consumers. 

What is more appalling is that most of these employment offering travel agencies/immigration agencies close down without informing consumers and vanish with thousands of dollars and later register another company with a different name. However, the faces behind these companies are the same. 

Unfortunately there are no legislations or regulatory institutions hence there is no boundary within which employment travel agencies/immigration agencies are required to operate. 

The Council has come across 29 complaints against travel agencies/immigration agencies offering employment based migration.  Where a consumer has paid a maximum of $10,000 and since the employment agency turned out to be a sham the consumer had to forfeit substantial amount of money. 

Most of the complaints received by the Council are similar in nature and the following is encountered: 

 1. Consumers are refused refunds or given the run around. A consumer paid $4,546.29 to a travel agency in 2009 to apply for skilled migration. Full assurance was given to the consumer that his application will be successful. Unfortunately his application was deemed unsuccessful. It seems that travel agencies/immigration agencies knowingly assure consumers to make money rather than advising the consumers whether they meet the criteria or what options are available. So what happens to the money paid? Will the complainant get a refund of money paid? 

2. Promises are made to consumers that processing time taken will be one to six months only. But in reality it takes 2 years and even more before the consumer is advised of an outcome. In another complaint received by the Council, the travel agencies/immigration agencies failed to process the applications at all. The complainant had paid $4150 in 2006.  When the complainant followed up on the progress, than only in 2008 the travel agencies/immigration agencies advised that more money was needed to further process the application. Consumers’ are duped because they are blinded by the desire for a job abroad. 

 3. The travel agencies seize operations without notification and vanish with thousands of dollars. One consumer paid $7650 to a travel agent for skilled migration in 2009.  Unfortunately the owner passed away and the complainant upon following up with the agency only received a refund of $500. She also later discovered that the agency had closed down. Basically the complainant was left with no hope of retrieving the remaining money. In another case the travel agencies closed its doors and moved to another premises with a new name and new phone numbers.

 What this depicts is that consumers are on the losing end as there is no mechanism in place to curb such fraudulent activities conducted by travel agencies/immigration agencies. What is needed is the law within which travel agencies/immigration agencies must operate. There should be a criteria and qualification requirement set for people who wish to operate travel agencies/immigration agencies. 

Consumers are warned to take responsibility when engaging the services of travel agencies/immigration agencies. Should there be uncertainty, it is recommended that clarification be sought from the respective Embassies or High Commissions or the Consumer Council of Fiji.