Immigrants make up an increasingly significant percentage of Australia’s workforce. If you’re thinking about moving Down Under to find gainful employment, it’s imperative that you understand and comply with all of the country’s migrant worker laws.
Unless you’re an Australian citizen or a permanent resident of Australia or New Zealand, you’re required to obtain a visa that includes work rights. That’s the only path to becoming an eligible worker.
When applying for a job, you will be asked to prove that you are eligible to work in Australia. Most employers use a right to work check to make the verification, confirming details of your passport and visa with the relevant authorities. If your visa is expired, restricted or invalid for any reason, the employer will not be able to hire you.
On that note, you should be wary of any employer that does not insist on verifying your work visa. Under the Migration Act, employers are obligated to take “reasonable steps” to confirm the legal status of their workers. And to be clear, a driver’s license, Medicare card, tax filing number, or any combination of the three, may not be used to demonstrate a person’s right to work.
Employing individuals who do not have a right to work is against the law and could result in heavy fines (up to $255,000, depending on the severity of the violation). If an employer is willing to break their own country’s laws, what’s to stop them from breaching the terms of your contract?
It is generally easier to obtain a work visa if you intend to do a certain type of work. For example, visas are regularly issued to skilled workers, investors and business people. Work visas are also available to:
- young adults who want to work to fund an extended holiday
- individuals participating in a seasonal work program
- people working in sectors (e.g. agriculture) where there are labor shortages
- workers with a sponsor
The process is more or less complicated—and expensive—depending on the type of visa you’re applying for. Some cost virtually nothing, while others could run into the thousands of dollars. Also note that applying for a sponsor is distinct from the visa process; if you succeed in getting an employer to sponsor you, however, your chances of securing a right to work visa will improve.
Different visas have different restrictions regarding the type of work you’re permitted to do, how many hours you can work, and how long you can live and work in the country. In the case of a temporary work visa, your employer will review your status periodically to ensure that you’re both in full compliance with the law.
Fortunately, checking the status of your visa is simple with the Australian government’s Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO).