Workplace rights for all visa holders working in Australia

All workers in Australia have rights and protections at work. This includes foreign nationals, whether they are working lawfully, are working in breach of their visa conditions, or have overstayed their visa. Your employer must comply with Australian workplace and immigration laws.

Pay rates and workplace conditions are set by Australian law.

The Pay and Conditions Tool (PACT) provides information on pay rates, shift calculations, leave arrangements and notice and redundancy entitlements.

The Fair Work Ombudsman can give you further information and advice about your workplace rights and obligations, and has workplace information translated into different languages.

Your rights and protections include workplace health and safety matters.

Your employer cannot cancel your visa

Only the Department of Immigration and Border Protection can grant, refuse or cancel visas. Visa cancellation is not automatic in circumstances where a visa holder has breached their visa conditions.  If you are under consideration for visa cancellation, you will have the opportunity to provide reasons as to why your visa should not be cancelled.

Helpful recordkeeping hints when you start working in Australia

  • keep a diary of days and hours worked
  • keep copies or records of employment details, pay slips, agreements and superannuation and tax documents.

Reporting workplace exploitation

Employers, businesses and agents can be subject to large fines and possible time in jail if caught exploiting workers.

You should be aware that certain unscrupulous, people, agents and businesses can use visa scams to exploit or steal money from you. Behaviours you should be aware of are:

  • job offers that require you to make an upfront payment or give back some of your pay
  • promises of permanent residence in Australia
  • refusing to provide minimum conditions of work and pay
  • refusing to provide a payslip
  • threats to cancel your visa or report you the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (the Department)
  • forcing someone to handover their passport or other travel documents
  • forcing someone to perform work duties they are not comfortable doing.

Practices such as human trafficking, slavery or slavery-like practices are not tolerated in Australia and can result in severe penalties, including lengthy jail terms.

Make sure you understand the rights and obligations associated with your visa and employment. You have the right to feel safe in your workplace.

Contact Fair Work Ombudsman 

We encourage all visa holders who believe they might have been exploited or underpaid to approach the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) through the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 or through their anonymous reporting service.

Breaches of work related visa conditions

If you hold a temporary visa with work rights and have not complied with your visa conditions due to workplace exploitation, we will consider factors that might be relevant to your non-compliance when deciding whether to cancel your visa.

We will generally not cancel your visa, detain or remove you from Australia if you have:

  • a temporary visa with work rights (for example a Student visa, Working Holiday Maker (subclass 417) or Temporary Skilled (subclass 457) visa)
  • sought advice or assistance from the FWO and you are assisting them with their inquiries
  • not complied with the work-related conditions on your visa and there is no other basis for visa cancellation
  • committed to abiding by visa conditions in the future.

If you do not have a legal right to work in Australia, we will still consider your case based on your individual circumstances but cannot guarantee that your visa will not be cancelled.

Disclosure of visa details by the FWO

The FWO works to ensure that people who have been exploited or underpaid are properly paid. It will not publicly disclose the details of individual claimants.

However, if you want to seek advice or assistance from the FWO  and you want us to have this information when considering your visa status, the FWO will give us your personal details (name, date of birth and passport number) so a record can be made that you have made a claim to the FWO. 

Reports made by third parties

Whether you approach us voluntarily or are reported to us through a third party, including an employer, the same processes will apply to assessing your current visa situation.

When reviewing your breaches of visa conditions, we will take into account any extenuating circumstances that might have led you to not comply with the requirements of your visa or the likely impact on you or your family should your visa be cancelled.

Check the work conditions attached to your visa

You can check your visa conditions at any time online using our free and secure system called Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO). VEVO can be accessed through our website or by downloading the free myVEVO app from your app store. Using the myVEVO app you can email your current visa conditions directly to an employer as proof that you are allowed to work in Australia.

When can we cancel your visa

We can cancel your visa if you:

  • provided incorrect information on your visa application in order to enter Australia
  • fail to abide by your visa conditions
  • present a significant risk to the community
  • engage in criminal conduct.

When deciding whether to cancel your visa due to non-compliance of a visa condition, we will take into account any extenuating circumstances that might have led you to not comply with the requirements of your visa or the likely impact on you or your family should your visa be cancelled.

Expired or cancelled visas  

We encourage visa holders to comply with their conditions. If you have overstayed your visa, or do not have a valid visa, you can seek free and anonymous advice from our Community Status Resolution Service (CSRS). CSRS officers can provide clear and personally relevant information about your situation and your visa or departure options, so you can make an informed decision sooner.

We generally do not detain people in Australia who approach voluntarily to resolve their immigration status. A Bridging Visa E is a temporary visa that is generally granted for a short time while a person works through their immigration matter.  

It is the responsibility of all Australian businesses to employ legal workers. Legal workers include people in Australia with valid visas that allow them to work. Not everyone is allowed to work. Some visas do not allow non-citizens to work while they are in Australia. People who no longer hold a valid visa are also not allowed to work here.

Interpreting services

If you need the help of an interpreter, you can contact our Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National). The TIS National immediate phone interpreting service is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year for the cost of a local call.

Employer's obligations

It is the responsibility of all Australian businesses to employ legal workers. Legal workers include people in Australia with valid visas that allow them to work. Not everyone is allowed to work. Some visas do not allow non-citizens to work while they are in Australia. People who no longer hold a valid visa are also not allowed to work here.

Businesses may be liable for fines if they employ, refer or contract non-citizens who are not allowed to work in Australia. The maximum fine is $270,000 per illegal worker. Businesses may be held responsible for engaging illegal workers regardless of whether they knew the workers were allowed to work or not.

Employer obligations for subclass 457 visa holders

If you are a sponsored visa holder on a Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) visa, your employer has obligations under migration law, in addition to the protections all workers have under workplace law. Your sponsor must:

  • provide you with equivalent terms and conditions of employment to those provided or would be provided to an Australian performing equivalent work in the same location
  • ensure you work only in the occupation, program or activity for which you were nominated
  • not recover, transfer or charge certain costs to you or another person (for example, recruitment costs, sponsorship/nomination fees, migration agent costs)
  • if requested in writing, pay reasonable and necessary travel costs to allow you and your family members to leave Australia;
  • tell the Department in writing when certain events occur (for example, changes to your sponsor’s address/contact details, if your employment with the sponsor ends, if your duties change)
  • cooperate with inspectors from the  Department or the Fair Work Ombudsman who are investigating whether your sponsor has complied with sponsorship obligations;
  • keep records that show they are complying with their sponsorship obligations and provide those records and information to the Department if requested.

Further detail about obligations a sponsor must meet is available on the Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) webpage under 'Sponsors' and 'Sponsor obligations'.

Where you can report potential breaches of subclass 457 visa obligations

The Department takes any alleged breaches of the subclass 457 visa very seriously, investigating allegations and taking appropriate enforcement action.  If you have information about a potential breach, you can provide this to the Department in several ways. See Report something suspicious webpage.

Employer obligations for other temporary sponsored visa holders

Employers for other temporary sponsored visas have obligations too. See Temporary Residence Sponsor Obligations.