Civil and administrative sanctions and Visa cancellations await those who are engaged in illegal Visa Sponsorship

I have heard some amazing stories in almost 24 years as a migration lawyer, working and travelling Australia and the world.

However, during my recent lectures as a continuing professional development migration law teacher, my migration agent and lawyer students have told me stories that left me almost speechless.

They’ve told of convoluted schemes and outrageous fees paid, some approaching six figures, for migrant workers to secure New Criminal And Civil Penalty Regime Preventing Payment or other benefits in return for a range of visa sponsorship jobs in Australia.

New laws in Australia provide criminal and civil penalties for sponsors, employers

However, law often catches up with reality, and on 14 December 2015, Australia’s Federal Parliament passed laws for criminal and civil penalties for sponsors, employers or other third parties who make a personal gain from their position in a ‘payment for visas’ arrangement on temporary and permanent skilled visa programmes, including the visa sub-classes 186, 187, 401, 402, 420, 488 and the mainstay 457 work visa.

The new laws could even catch out a visa holder who could lose their Australian permanent resident or temporary resident visa at any time, if they are involved in ‘payment for visas’ arrangements.

Payment benefit other than monetary payments

Australian Immigration minister, Peter Dutton in his September second-reading speech stated that:

‘benefit’ is defined in wide terms to include any payment or deduction, and any kind of real or personal property, advantage, service or gift. This could include deductions of a visa holder’s salary or wages, payment for goods or services above market value or unpaid work.”

The definition is also wide enough to include anything given in exchange for sponsorship, including sexual favours. It does not include payments of reasonable amounts for the provision of a professional service such as by a migration or recruitment agent.

457 visa independent review

The new law is a result of an independent review into the 457 visa. Its explanatory memorandum states:

Australia’s Government considers that ‘payment for visas’ activity is unacceptable because it undermines the integrity of Australia’s visa programmes. Applicants who have paid for their visa are more vulnerable to exploitation and extortion by their sponsor, behaviour which endangers workers and undermines Australian workplace law.”

Imprisonment of up to 2 years and fines up to $216,000

Apart from visa refusals and cancellations, the law threatens imprisonment of up to 2 years and fines up to $64,800 for an individual, and $324,000 for a corporation. These criminal penalties tend to be targeted at repeat offenders.

The law also allows for civil penalties of up to $43,200 for an individual and $216,000 for a corporation.

Seek the advice of an Australian accredited migration lawyer

As these consequences are potentially very severe, if you would like assistance with any employer sponsorship matter or if you own a complementary business, particularly in Kerala or elsewhere in India, and wish to partner to offer immigration services to your clients please book a consultation with one of our immigration advisors here.