Employing foreign staff: how to avoid DIAC penalties

by 17 Feb 2012

DIAC are increasingly using infringement notices to penalise businesses for non-compliance with sponsorship obligations.  Fines totalling $165,000 were issued last financial year, and the number of civil prosecutions is rising. Furthermore, there are plans in 2012 for the government to introduce laws establishing civil penalties and fines for employing illegal workers.

This makes it more important than ever before for human resources and mobility staff to be familiar with the immigration legislation relating to the employment and sponsorship of foreign staff. As so many businesses in Australia employ foreign staff who are either sponsored through the subclass 457 visa program or are holders of other visas permitting them to lawfully work in some capacity, measures to manage immigration compliance risks are vital. After all, a DIAC action can reverberate right across a business.

How do you ensure immigration compliance? Here are some tips to consider:

  • Ensure that staff use DIAC's free Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) tool. VEVO is useful at the time of recruitment and provides information relating to the work rights of a foreign national,
  • Consider developing policies and procedures relating to recruitment and/or sponsorship of staff. Relevant personnel, including line managers, need to be aware of the additional steps involved in recruitment and ongoing employment of foreign staff,
  • Train relevant staff including mobility staff who are based overseas and are involved in Australian visa matters on immigration compliance issues,
  • Make sure you have effective information systems to manage your immigration records as well as facilitate ongoing compliance with other relevant sponsorship obligations. For instance, who is responsible within your business for managing notifications to DIAC of prescribed events relating to your 457 visa holders?
  • Keep up with changes to immigration and related law which could impact your business and sponsored staff. A good example is the recently announced proposed changes to LAFHA,
  • Think about conducting an audit – an audit can help your business to identify gaps in existing processes and raise compliance issues that need to be addressed before DIAC becomes aware of them.

Fragomen assists local and multi-national businesses to manage compliance with Australian immigration laws, and offers services relating to the training and education of staff in this area.



Sasko Markovski


Special Counsel
Compliance and Advisory

+61 2 8224 8509  

Other topics: