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Maintaining sponsor obligations during COVID-19

Maintaining sponsor obligations during COVID-19

With a second lockdown in the Metropolitan Melbourne area coming into force many businesses are once again having to reduce operations and as a result needing to stand down staff or reduce their hours.

As a business who employs subclass 457 or subclass 482 visa holders, it’s important to consider how your decisions might impact your sponsorship obligations.

Standing down sponsored employees

Under current immigration policy, standing down your sponsored employee (or leave without pay (LWOP)) should not exceed three months. However, there are allowances to this time frame if exceptional circumstances apply.

The COVID-19 pandemic can be viewed as an exceptional circumstance, and as a result we expect to see some concessions made by the Department of Home Affairs in relation to standing down employees for more than three months as a result of business operations impacted by COVID-19.

Even with these concessions, we advise that best practice would be to notify the Department of any sponsored employees who have been stood down at the time this happens, and again if you expect they will be stood down for more than three months.

For leave without pay the expectations are:

  • the leave without pay agreement is mutually agreed by both the sponsor and employee
  • a formal leave without pay application is formally approved by the employer

Termination of sponsored employees

If termination is your only option you must do so in accordance with Australian employment law and notify the Department within 28 days of the employee ceasing employment.

Sponsored workers can request you pay repatriation costs to their country of residence, but this request must be made in writing and the obligation fulfilled within 30 days of receiving this request.

Where possible, we advise you to avoid termination of sponsored workers.

If you expect to reinstate sponsored workers once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, having your sponsored workers available to return will allow you to resume operations as quickly as possible. You will also avoid having to pay sponsorship costs again if you need to re-employ foreign workers.

If you have specific questions about a sponsored worker please contact Absolute Immigration directly on 1300 227 658 or email us at

As always, we recommend you seek legal advice when determining the requirements to stand down or reduce hours of staff in order to comply with Australian employment law and employee entitlements.

You can find a full list of your sponsorship obligations here.

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