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Employing skilled foreign workers

Last updated May 2020 currently under review

This chapter explains how to be approved as a sponsor of a foreign worker, and outlines the obligations of sponsors and visa-holders.

Before employing someone, you must check they are lawfully entitled to work in Australia.

Generally, only Australian citizens, Australian permanent residents and New Zealand citizens on a valid passport have unrestricted work rights in Australia. All other people require a visa to work in Australia lawfully.

Caution: It is a criminal offence under the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) (Migration Act) to:
- knowingly or recklessly allow an illegal employee to work;
- allow a sponsored employee to breach the conditions of their work visa; or
- refer an illegal employee to work with another business.

These offences may expose you to up to 2 years’ imprisonment or up to 5 years’ imprisonment if the employee is being exploited.

You can also attract the strict civil liability provisions if contravention of the Migration Act is established (even if there is insufficient evidence to establish the commission of a criminal offence beyond reasonable doubt). This can expose you to civil penalties of up to $94,500 for a body corporate, or $18,900 for an individual.