Monday, March 31, 2008


Michael Thornton
Thornton Immigration Lawyers

Skills shortages in the Australian workforce mean that many firms are looking to employ overseas workers. Employers choosing this option should first seek advice so that they are fully informed of their obligations. These include payment of minimum gazetted salaries, medical expenses and return travel costs for the worker and any family members in Australia.

In most situations these obligations are not excessively onerous but they need to be managed by the use of properly drafted employment contracts and private health insurance.

Employers also need to be aware that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship monitors the performance of employers who sponsor temporary overseas workers. This monitoring process involves the production of satisfactory proof that the employer is paying the agreed salary, superannuation and other benefits and that the worker is in fact working in the nominated occupation and not in some other role. In some situations, immigration officers will conduct unannounced visits to business premises and request production of the firm’s records, BAS statements and so on.

Firms should ensure that proper records are kept and that they are up to date. Failure to do this can be costly both for the firm and their sponsored workers. If a firm is found to be in breach of its undertakings it can have its approval as a sponsor cancelled or face other sanctions. The result of this may also be that the worker has to find an alternative employer at short notice or leave Australia. Workers who have planned to convert from temporary residence to permanent residence via employer sponsorship may also find this avenue closed if their employer is sanctioned for breaching undertakings.
Many thousands of Australian businesses are turning to sponsoring overseas workers using the 457 visa as a means of solving skills shortages. This is a valid strategy but care must be taken to manage the process and to fully meet sponsorship undertakings.