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Ensuring immigration compliance when employing foreign workers

In the past few months, the Australian Government has introduced many changes to the migration program and has increased the focus on regulatory compliance for businesses employing and sponsoring foreign workers.

Our Immigration Director of Absolute Immigration Legal, Alex Kaufman, offers great insights for businesses to ensure their operations stay compliant and meet all their sponsorship obligations.

No time for complacency with immigration compliance

By Alex Kaufman, Immigration Director of Absolute Immigration Legal 

Throughout much of the pandemic, international students, backpackers, and Australian employers enjoyed a rare ‘amnesty’ on strict compliance with visa conditions, as well as certain provisions of the Migration Act 1958, and related enforcement proceedings. Specifically, visa conditions that otherwise limit the number of hours or months that could be worked were effectively suspended ‘by proclamation’ in unprecedented moves to keep the economic wheels turning.

From 1 July 2023, the beneficiaries of these flexible arrangements are now weaning themselves off the temporary measures, as the Federal Government reboots its compliance machinery and focuses its attention on enforcement.

The rollbacks include:

  1. Most subclass 500 visa holders returning to a work limitation (which has been marginally increased to 48 hours per fortnight whilst their course is in session), unless continuing to work in aged care where full-time hours are permitted until 31 December 2023.
  2. Working holiday makers being limited to working a maximum of 6 months with any given employer – unless one of the limited general exceptions apply
  3. Employers, labour suppliers, and recruiters being liable for any facilitated breaches of these (and other) visa conditions through a work ‘arrangement’.

We can safely predict that the end of amnesty means a redux in enforcement activity, and this is happening now following the recently published Nixon Review into Exploitation of Australia’s Visa System, and new powers and sanctions proposed under the Migration Amendment (Strengthening Employer Compliance) Bill.

What is proposed under the new Bill?
  1. Creating a criminal offence where a person coerces, or exerts undue influence or undue pressure on a non-citizen to accept or agree to a work arrangement that would involve a breach of a work-related condition
  2. Creating a criminal offence where a person coerces, or exerts undue influence or pressure on a non-citizen to accept a work arrangement to avoid an adverse immigration status, or that would result in the non-citizen being unable to satisfy a work-related visa requirement.
  3. Establishing a framework where the Minister can declare certain employers to be ‘prohibited employers’ for a specified period of time. Rather than just barring or cancelling the employer’s business sponsorship license, the prohibition applies to the employment of any temporary visa holder
  4. Mandating the use of the VEVO system to determine whether a non-citizen is lawful and has the necessary permission to work
  5. Increasing civil and monetary penalties for individuals and business sponsors

With bipartisan support for most of the above measures, the Bill has just passed both houses and will become part of the broader compliance framework in mere months.

To test your immigration compliance with the current employer sanctions legislation and the slated changes, contact our Absolute Immigration Legal team for a confidential assessment and pre-Audit health check.

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