Visa authorities in several countries are warning expats to be on their guard against costly visa scams.
In Australia, conmen are phoning expats and asking them to pay for non-existent visa extensions.
The caller offers to help the expat with the administration of their visa application and will demand extra money for doing so.
The situation is so serious in Australia that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has issued a formal warning about conmen impersonating their officers.
The scam is mainly geared towards expats with a temporary resident visa.
Others being targeted include students and holders of Australia’s subclass 457 visa which caters for people working in technology.
A spokesman for DIAC said the con was well organised and that visa holders were being convinced to pay a penalty charge into an offshore account when no payment is needed.
He added: “When contacted, the caller will ask for the person to confirm their details and then demand an immediate penalty payment or the visa will be cancelled and they could be jailed.”
Anyone contacted by phone to make visa payments should refuse and tell the caller that they are aware of the scam and will call the police.
In America the situation is slightly different with a growing number of unauthorised immigration consultants offering to help people with their visa problems.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) say this is illegal and that applicants should seek help from the right sources which have been authorised to help.
A USCIS spokesman said: “Getting help in the wrong place can delay an application and cost more in unnecessary fees. It could also lead to possible removal proceedings.”
To help expats avoid immigration scams, USCIS has launched an initiative to help inform applicants about legal service providers and community-based organisations to avoid running into trouble with the law.
£1m visa fraud
Meanwhile, a massive visa scam has led to an immigration officer facing charges in a Dubai court after being accused of embezzling almost £1 million.
The man, who denies the charge, is alleged to have issued 10,423 visas.
He was arrested after allegations that he pocketed money directly from applicants without giving them a receipt or telling them that they should have paid at a separate counter.
It is believed that the scam had been running for nearly 18 months before his arrest.
Authorities in Dubai say that the unnamed man asked for money and then entered details into the visa system before issuing the paperwork.
The trial has been adjourned.