Employers looking to hire temporary foreign workers are being urged to register as accredited business sponsors with the Department of Immigration to access new priority processing measures.
The government has confirmed that businesses which receive accredited sponsor status will be exempt from the typical security and background checks undertaken as part of the visa application process.
According to a migration specialist from FCB Smart Visa, Alex Kaufman, accredited sponsors are even able to hire workers from countries that have been deemed “high-risk”.
“As counter-intuitive as it sounds, that is correct, with the exception of Australian Federal Police clearances, which under [the] policy can be requested,” he said.
“Certainly, in order to give meaningful effect to priority processing arrangements for accredited sponsors, the government has seen fit to allow a sponsor to vouch for the character of one of their nominees in order to, obviously save time, and to obviate the need for them to get a police clearance from that jurisdiction, which is very handy for some [countries]”
“South Africa, for example, and the [US] FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] for non-citizens can take many months to obtain.”
Kaufman also raised concerns that the new policy could potentially leave Australia’s border security vulnerable, due to the Department’s increasing reliance on automation.
“Given the machinations of policy over the last year-and-a-half, it does stand out as being perhaps overly generous or potentially ill-conceived or perhaps not as qualified as it could be. I mean, there doesn’t seem to be any exceptions for countries that might be considered extremely high risk,” Kaufman said.
“We have applicants from war-torn territories, territories with civil unrest, territories that are generally considered to be hotbeds of terrorist activity that apparently are able to be waived through at the behest of a sponsor, over and above the heads of ASIO, for example.”
“I haven’t seen or heard of any attempts to curtail that.”
The government has stated that there will be sanctions imposed on businesses who are found to have employed foreign workers with a criminal past. However, the most significant penalty levied will be limited to the removal of the employer’s accredited sponsor status.
The Department of Home Affairs have also confirmed that police checks are no longer necessary for approved business sponsors.
“Applicants who are sponsored by an accredited sponsor, are not required to obtain police certificates from countries other than Australia provided they attach a written reference from their accredited sponsor confirming that they are of good character and have not been convicted of any criminal offences,” the announcement reads.
“The applicants must still, however, provide any required Australian police clearances where applicable or when requested to do so.”
The Associate Director of Absolute Immigration, Belinda Man, warned that while priority processing can be highly useful for business sponsors, employers should be careful to ensure that due diligence is undertaken when hiring visa workers.
“While the intent of providing this exemption to accredited sponsors is to provide a more streamlined process and faster processing times, it is crucial for accredited sponsors to understand the risk of attesting to a ‘clean’ character record for employees and their spouses where they don’t have all the relevant information at hand,” Man said.
“If the employee is found to have some character issues after the sponsor has provided their attestation, it could result in the removal of the accredited status.”
“It is therefore critical that sponsors have their own internal mechanisms in place to check the character of potential employees (and their spouses) before they sign an attestation. In my opinion, the possibility of the business losing it’s accredited status is not worth the risk,” she said.
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