Work visa scams

Work visa scams. Don't pay the price

On 14 December 2015, new criminal and civil penalties and visa cancellation provisions were introduced as part of a 'paying for visa sponsorship ' framework that allows for sanctions to be imposed on a person who asks for, receives, offers or provides a benefit in return for visa sponsorship or employment (that requires visa sponsorship).  

'Paying for visa sponsorship' conduct is considered unacceptable by the Australian Government as it undermines the integrity of the skilled work programmes, which are designed to address genuine skill shortages in the Australian labour market by making employees available from outside Australia.

It is not acceptable for sponsors, nominators, employers or other third parties to make a personal gain from their position in a 'paying for visa sponsorship' arrangement, nor is it acceptable for current or prospective visa holders to obtain permanent residence in Australia, or have the opportunity to work in Australia by providing a benefit to an employer for a job.

To further strengthen this framework, sponsors, nominators and visa applicants will be required to, as part of the application process, state whether or not they have actively participated in conduct that contravenes the new 'paying for visa sponsorship' laws.

Note: While the legislation was cast broadly to include third-parties such as professional service providers because we were aware of circumstances where unlawful payments have been disguised in the context of fees charged for other professional services, there is no intention of using this legislation to sanction the delivery of legitimate professional services for profit.

Similarly, we have no intention of using this framework to sanction legitimate business activities or to pursue businesses which require visa holders to reimburse costs that are otherwise prohibited from being passed on under the individual visa programme (this does not, however, preclude the pursuit of unlawful activities under more appropriate legislative provisions).

Sponsors and nominators

For sponsors and nominators, this statement is presented in the associated application form as a 'certification'. You must read, and understand the 'paying for visa sponsorship – Certification requirement'.

Visa applicants

For visa applicants, this statement is presented in the associated application form as a 'declaration'. You must read, and understand the 'Paying for visa sponsorship – Declaration requirement'.

Affected visas

The requirement to provide a declaration or certification as part of your application is mandatory, and are provided as follows:

Visa ProgrammeSponsorship/NominationVisa
Temporary (Long Stay Activity) (subclass 401) visa

Paying for visa sponsorship – certification requirement

Note: will be available within the paper application for by mid-end January.

Paying for visa sponsorship – declaration requirement

Note: will be available within the paper application for by mid-end January.

Training and Research (subclass 402) visa (Research stream) Paying for visa sponsorship – certification requirement

Note: will be available within the paper application for by mid-end January.

Paying for visa sponsorship – declaration requirement

Note: will be available within the paper application for by mid-end January.

Temporary Work (Entertainment) (subclass 420) visa Paying for visa sponsorship – certification requirement

Note: will be available within the paper application for by mid-end January

Paying for visa sponsorship – declaration requirement

Note: will be available within the paper application for by mid-end January

Temporary Work (Skilled) (subclass 457) visaWithin the eForm (online lodgement facility) from 14 December 2015Within the eForm (online lodgement facility) from 14 December 2015
Superyacht Crew (subclass 488) visa N/AWithin the relevant paper form from 14 December 2015.
Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa Paying for visa sponsorship – certification requirement

Note:  Will be available within the eForm (online lodgement facility in 2016)

Paying for visa sponsorship – declaration requirement

Note:  Will be available within the eForm (online lodgement facility in 2016)

Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187) visa Paying for visa sponsorship – certification requirement

Note:  Will be available within the eForm (online lodgement facility in 2016)

Paying for visa sponsorship – declaration requirement

Note:  Will be available within the eForm (online lodgement facility in 2016)

What is a scam

A scam is an attempt to intentionally mislead people to steal money, property, or personal information, or to dishonestly obtain something else of value.

We are aware that criminals around the world and in Australia use scams with false promises of work and permanent residence in Australia as a way to exploit or steal money from people.

We are committed to educating people about the correct processes for applying to live and work in Australia and to assist them to protect themselves from migration fraud and scams. It is important that you understand your rights and your employer's obligations to ensure you are protecting yourself.

Most people follow the appropriate and lawful process in meeting visa and sponsorship requirements, a minority do not. We undertake a range of measures to identify those who are engaging in fraudulent activities and have penalties in place to deal with visa holders and sponsors who are found to be doing the wrong thing.

What we are  doing to stop these scams

We take scams very seriously and have a number of strategies in place to prevent people from becoming victims of scams but also to take action against those engaging in fraudulent behaviour.

  • We educate people about current scams and the warning signs to look out for.
  • We run monitoring and educational campaigns in addition to standard sponsor audits to ensure that sponsors and visa holders are meeting their visa conditions and sponsorship obligations in accordance with migration laws.
  • We take action when visa holders and/or sponsors are found to be doing the wrong thing, this may include visa cancellation, administrative sanctions such as cancellation of sponsorships, issuing financial penalties, or taking court action. In 2014-15, we monitored 2,199 sponsors, resulting in 321 sanctions and 20 financial penalties. We cancelled 9,743 subclass 457 visas where visa holders were found to be in breach of their visa conditions.
  • We share information and work cooperatively with the Fair Work Ombudsman to monitor sponsors against their obligations. We also share information with other government agencies such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to ensure that employment scams or exploitation are dealt with in a comprehensive manner.

Further information relating to visa cancellation can be found on the Department's website.

What you can do to avoid being the victim of a scam

There are a number of things you can do to ensure you remain vigilant and do not become the victim of a work visa scam.

  • Ensure you are aware of the visa application charges and processes that apply to your situation.
  • Make sure you are aware of your work rights and your sponsor's obligations.
  • Be cautious of any job offer requiring an upfront payment or paying back some of your salary.
  • Familiarise yourself with current scam warnings  and be alert to the warning signs of scams.
  • If you use a migration agent, ensure you are using a registered migration agent. Always check with Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority to see if an agent is registered.
  • Remember, that your visa application should only be lodged directly with the Department. If you are using a registered migration agent, they should lodge your application with the Department on your behalf.  The Department does not recommend the use of unregistered third parties for lodging applications.

See also Workplace rights - for all visa holders working in Australia