No plans to remove accountants from the 2015 SOL

Some of our blog readers may have seen today’s Australian Financial Review, which  has incorrectly reported that the department has dropped accounting from its list of skilled occupations in demand for 2015.

There are no plans to remove this occupation from the Skilled Occupation List (SOL) for the 2015 programme year. The Office of the Chief Economist in the Department of Industry conducts analysis each year on the composition of the SOL. The next advice is expected in March 2015 after the completion of extensive labour market analysis and a public consultation process.

This year, the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (whose functions have been incorporated into the Department of Industry) released a detailed analysis of accountants and concluded that they should continue to be included on the SOL.

Know your sponsor’s obligations

This post is the final part of a series of fictional scenarios designed to help temporary skilled workers holding 457 visas and their sponsors to better understand their responsibilities and obligations. It is also designed to assist you in avoiding visa scams and fraudulent activity. The department takes allegations of fraud very seriously. There are significant penalties if you are caught engaging in fraudulent activity.

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  • You sponsor has a number of obligations they must follow; otherwise they can face some serious penalties and fines.
  • Your sponsor cannot ask you to repay specific costs, such as the costs associated with your sponsorship and nomination.
  • Visa holders need to be aware of their sponsor’s obligations.
  • Everyone working in Australia is entitled to basic rights and protections in the workplace. To learn your workplace rights you can go to http://www.fairwork.gov.au/find-help-for/visa-holders-and-migrants.

If you are a visa holder and believe that your sponsor is not meeting their sponsorship obligations you can report them anonymously at http://www.immi.gov.au/Help/Pages/immigration-dob-in-service.aspx#what-information-should-you-provide-to-us

If your sponsor is making you work excessive hours or your rights are not being met in the workplace you can contact the Fair Work Ombudsman. The Fair Work Ombudsman can help settle workplace disputes and can be contacted here http://www.fairwork.gov.au/Contact-us/email-us

Please note: names of people and businesses in this story are fictional for the purposes of this case study.

Sasha had been working as an electrician and had been sponsored by Down Thunder Electrical Pty Ltd. When she agreed to work for Down Thunder Electrical Pty Ltd she was promised that after two years they would sponsor her for permanent residence. She was to work 38 hours and be paid $1037 a week. She was enjoying her time working and living in Australia.

After three months of working she was approached by her employer who demanded she pay back money for visa costs. Overall, he demanded she pay back $12,000. If she failed to pay-back this money the sponsor threatened to cancel her visa and not sponsor her for permanent residence.  Sasha was very concerned as her new life in Australia was in jeopardy.

Over the next few weeks, with Sasha’s reluctant agreement, her employer withheld $150 from her pay every week to pay back the visa costs. The sponsor also started demanding that she work longer hours and to work on her days off.  Sasha was exhausted and struggling to pay rent and bills due to the deductions to her pay. Sasha did not know what to do. She thought that if she stopped paying the sponsor and working the longer hours her visa would be cancelled.

Sasha spoke to her co-workers and discovered that they too were paying back large sums of money to the employer and working longer hours. It appeared to her that she was not the only employee being exploited.

Sasha’s friend noticed that she was worried about work and stressed about her visa. She told Sasha that she could report her employer to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Her friend told her that her employer did not have the power to cancel her visa – as only the department could do that. Her friend also informed her that she could look for another job and seek sponsorship with another company.

Sasha took her friend’s advice and anonymously reported her sponsor to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection through the dob-in line on the website.

Departmental officers visited Sasha’s workplace and discovered that employees were paying visa costs back to the sponsor. The sponsor was barred from further sponsorships and referred to the Fair Work Ombudsman for investigation because of the excessive hours Sasha and her colleagues were being forced to work, and the deductions held from her wages.

Shortly after the Fair Work Ombudsman finalised their investigation. They found that the employees of the business had been underpaid and that the employer was in breach of the Fair Work Act. As a result the company was required to pay Sasha and her co-workers for all the overtime worked for which they had not been paid.

Meanwhile, Sasha was able to find a new sponsor who met their obligations and she was eventually sponsored for permanent residence. The Fair Work Ombudsman was able to assist Sasha in obtaining the money that was owed to her.

Are you going to be employed in your nominated position?

This post is part of a series of fictional scenarios designed to help temporary skilled workers holding 457 visas and their sponsors to better understand their responsibilities and obligations. It is also designed to assist you in avoiding visa scams and fraudulent activity. The department takes allegations of fraud very seriously. There are significant penalties if you are caught engaging in fraudulent activity.

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  • If someone is offering to sponsor you with the intention of not offering you paid employment in the nominated position, this is visa fraud.
  • Both sponsors and visa holders have obligations and conditions to ensure that visa fraud does not occur. if an obligation or condition is breached there can be serious consequences for sponsors and visa holders.

To help stop visa fraud the department needs you to report any suspicious or potentially fraudulent activity by sponsors or visa holders. You can do this by going to the Immigration dob-in line.

Please note: names of people and businesses in this story are fictional for the purposes of this case study.

Lee is an IT Network Analyst. For several months, he had been trying to find a 457 sponsor so he could live and work in Australia, but with no success. Lee’s aunt Jin ran a small IT company in Melbourne. Although she had no need for an IT Network Analyst, due to the size and the nature of the business, she wished to help her nephew Lee. Therefore, Jin decided to apply to become a 457 sponsor with the intention of sponsoring Lee, despite not having a position available.

Jin told Lee that she was unable to afford the costs involved in becoming a 457 sponsor. As Lee was desperate to live and work in Australia, he told his aunt that he would pay for his own visa costs, and the costs for Jin’s company to become a 457 sponsor and to nominate him. Lee was aware that when he arrived in Australia, his aunt would be unable to employ him as an IT Network Analyst, but for visa purposes he would be an employee of the company.

Lee paid all the necessary fees and submitted all the required applications to the department to seek approval of Jin’s company as a 457 sponsor and nominate the position of IT network analyst. He planned to apply for his visa when the sponsorship and nomination were approved.

While waiting for the sponsorship and the nomination to be approved, Jin received an unannounced visit from departmental officers. The officers stated that they were conducting a site visit on the request of the processing officer to see if Jin’s business met the requirements to be a 457 visa sponsor, and if the company required an IT Network Analyst as she had stated in her nomination application.

The officers questioned Jin about the nature of the work conducted by the business and the role of the proposed IT Network Analyst. As Jin did not need an IT Network Analyst, she struggled to answer the questions being asked of her. As a result, the officers informed the processing area that the business did not need an IT Network Analyst and that they had concerns about the genuineness of the sponsorship application. The processing officer refused the company’s sponsorship application and Lee was unable to apply for a visa through Jin’s company. All the fees Lee paid for the sponsorship and nomination application were non-refundable.

Stay tuned for our final blog post coming soon.

Are you working at your nominated place of employment?

This post is part of a series of fictional scenarios designed to help temporary skilled workers holding 457 visas and their sponsors to better understand their responsibilities and obligations. It is also designed to assist you in avoiding visa scams and fraudulent activity. The department takes allegations of fraud very seriously. There are significant penalties if you are caught engaging in fraudulent activity.

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  • You must work for your nominated sponsor, in the position for which you were nominated. If this is not occurring you may have your visa cancelled.
  • If you are a sc457 visa holder you must not work for an employer or business other than your sponsor.
  • Sponsors found to have sponsored someone who does not work at their company will face severe penalties and fines.
  • If you wish to change your employer your new employer must sponsor you and lodge a new nomination.

If you know or suspect that someone is not working in the job or company that they are meant to please contact the department through the Immigration dob-in line.

Please note: names of people and businesses in this story are fictional for the purposes of this case study.

­­­­Abdul wanted to come and live in Australia. He dreamt of becoming a permanent resident and eventually an Australian citizen. Abdul believed his best option to become an Australian would be to enter through the skilled migration pathway. The problem was that Abdul could not find a sponsor willing to sponsor him.

Abdul sought the advice of a family member who informed him that he knew a man called Wasim who would be willing to sponsor him. Wasim operated a large import-export company.

Abdul contacted Wasim and asked him if he could sponsor him. Wasim informed Abdul that he did not have any jobs available in his company and could not afford to pay his wage to employ him. However, Wasim told Abdul that he would sponsor him for $20,000 upfront. Abdul would also need to pay money to Wasim each month. This would then be paid back to Abdul to make it appear that the import-export company was paying Abdul a salary. Abdul wanted to live in Australia, so he agreed to this.

Abdul paid the upfront money to Wasim who then sponsored him to work in Australia with his import-export company. Abdul was excited when he received a visa to live and work in Australia. As Wasim had no job for Abdul, Abdul did not work at Wasim’s company. Instead he found work as a taxi driver.

This arrangement continued for a number of months until the department performed a
routine monitoring check on Wasim’s company. They asked to talk to Abdul, who was not at the business. Departmental officials questioned other employees and discovered that Abdul had never worked at the company, but rather had an arrangement with Wasim.

Several days later, the department contacted Abdul about these allegations. Abdul claimed that the reason that he was not at work on the day of the department’s visit was due to illness. He denied that he was working as a taxi driver. The investigators further questioned Abdul about his role in the business and his co-workers. Because Abdul had never worked with the import-export company he was unable to answer these questions. Abdul and Wasim were found to have provided false and misleading information to the department.

Abdul’s visa was cancelled and he may not be able to return to Australia for at least three years. In addition he was unable to recover his $20,000. Wasim received a substantial fine and was prevented from sponsoring any new employees.

Stay tuned for a new scenario next week.

New Work and Holiday visa arrangement signed by Australia and Israel

Australia and Israel signed a reciprocal Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462) arrangement on 22 October 2014.

Soon young adults, aged 18–30 years, from Australia and Israel will be able to experience a once in a lifetime opportunity to play, work and study in each other’s country for up to 12 months. There will be 500 places on offer for each country per programme year.

Our website has detailed information about the Work and Holiday visa and its eligibility criteria.

Once a start date has been determined for this visa programme, eligible young adults from both countries will be able to apply for this visa. This process can take some time, however, we will announce the start date on our website and social media channels.

Interested in a working holiday in another country? Find out more about other working holiday arrangements overseas on our website.

Be invested— benefitting Australia through investment migration

The Australian Government announced changes to investor visas designed to enhance the attractiveness of investment migration in Australia on 14 October 2014. The announcement was made following a departmental review of the programme.

Significant Investor visas are a niche category of Australia’s skilled migration programme. They make substantial contributions to Australia’s economy, with more than AUD 2 billion injected into Australia’s economy since their inception in November 2012.

In order to be eligible for the Significant Investor visa, applicants must invest AUD 5 million into approved investments in Australia. Visa holders must then maintain their investment for at least four years in order to be eligible for permanent residency.

Exciting changes to the programme will see the creation of the Premium Investor visa on 1 July 2015. This visa will allow applicants who invest AUD 15 million in approved investments to be eligible for permanent residency after 12 months. These changes are good news for investment in Australia, and will also enhance the attractiveness of the programme for potential applicants.

To ensure investors’ dollars work hard for Australia, Austrade will now assume policy responsibility for approving the investments that qualify for the programme.

Significant Investor visa nominations will continue to be made by states and territory governments. Austrade will also be able to nominate applicants for this visa type, as well as be the only nominating agency for the Premium Investor visa.

Learn more about investment migration to Australia.

Keep following our blog for news on upcoming changes to Australia’s Business Innovation and Investment programme.

Are you working in your nominated position?

240 x 320 - Office WorkerThis post is part of a series of fictional scenarios designed to help temporary skilled workers holding 457 visas and their sponsors to better understand their responsibilities and obligations. It is also designed to assist you in avoiding visa scams and fraudulent activity. The department takes allegations of fraud very seriously. There are significant penalties if you are caught engaging in fraudulent activity.

Working in your nominated position

  • You must be working in your nominated position. If you are found to be working in a different position your visa can be cancelled.
  • Your sponsor also has an obligation to make sure you are working in your nominated position. The sponsor can face severe penalties if this does not happen.
  • If you want to change your position, your sponsor must submit a new nomination application. You cannot work in a different position until it is approved by the department.
  • Woking outside of your nominated position is a breach of the conditions of your visa.

If you know of someone not working in their nominated position please inform the department through the Immigration dob-in line.

Please note: names of people and businesses in this story are fictional for the purposes of this case study.

Vikram has spent the last four years in Australia studying. While Vikram was studying he was working 40 hours a fortnight at a local restaurant as a waiter. As he has almost finished his course, Vikram was becoming nervous about his future in Australia; he wanted to stay but did not know if he was eligible for any other visas.

Vikram’s boss at the restaurant offered to sponsor him as a restaurant manager. Vikram had never worked as a restaurant manager and his only work experience was in waiting tables. When Vikram expressed these concerns to his boss, his boss told him that he would not expect Vikram to work as the manager, but they could just tell the department that this was the role he had already been filling at the restaurant and that he would continue in that role. Vikram’s boss said he would organise all the paperwork.

Vikram’s boss said that as he was helping him out with his visa to stay in Australia, he wanted Vikram to pay $30,000. This was a lot of money but as Vikram wanted to remain in Australia he agreed to this proposal.

Vikram had to pay $10,000 to his boss before he submitted the visa application and $20,000 once the visa had been approved.

Vikram had a very nervous wait while his visa was processed as he knew he wasn’t being honest with the department. He was very relieved when he received notification of his visa approval and was looking forward to his life in Australia. Even though $30,000 was a lot of money, he was happy to be remaining in Australia.

Vikram continued to wait tables and perform other duties in the restaurant. Several months after his visa was approved, monitoring officers from the department visited the business to see if the sponsor and visa holders were complying with their obligations.  Vikram was asked about his role in the business. He was asked questions about his experience and the duties he performed on a daily basis. Vikram was nervous and concerned because he was struggling to answer their questions and knew he was being untruthful.

Following the monitoring audit it was determined that Vikram was not working as the restaurant manager but rather as a waiter. As Vikram was not working in his nominated position, he breached his visa conditions and his visa was cancelled. The sponsor was also penalised for employing Vikram in an incorrect position. The sponsor was barred from sponsoring skilled workers for the next five years and received a substantial fine.

Vikram was disappointed. Not only would he have to leave Australia, he had lost $30,000 by engaging in fraudulent conduct. He was also informed by the department that as his visa had been cancelled he was unlikely to be successful in obtaining a new visa for at least three years.

Are you working for your nominated sponsor? If this question concerns you or someone you know, read next week’s blog post.

Beware of visa scams

Over the next few weeks, this blog will host a series of fictional scenarios designed to help temporary skilled workers holding 457 visas and their sponsors to better understand their responsibilities and obligations. This series is also designed to assist you in avoiding visa scams and fraudulent activity. The department takes allegations of fraud very seriously. There are significant penalties if you are caught engaging in fraudulent activity.

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  • Be suspicious of anyone offering to sell you a visa. No one should be charging you, in order to get sponsorship for a job and a subclass 457 visa.
  • The department is not able to assist you in regaining money lost through your involvement in a visa scam.

If you have been approached by someone offering to sell you a visa or nomination, we want to know about it. Visa scams should be reported to the department through the Immigration dob-in line.

Please note: names of people and businesses in this story are fictional for the purposes of this case study.

Chang is a qualified chef. He wanted to find employment in Australia in his field. Chang thought he and his family might like living and working in Australia and they could consider applying for permanent residence.

A friend told Chang that he knew of someone who helped to find people jobs in Australia and could organise sponsorship under the subclass 457 visa programme. Chang’s friend provided him with an email address to find out more.

Chang emailed the contact his friend had given him and received an immediate response from a person called Jo. Jo said that he could find a job for Chang as a chef with a good restaurant in Sydney and asked Chang to meet him at a local café to discuss the process further.

Chang met Jo at a local restaurant and Jo explained to him that in order to secure a job and visa sponsorship for Chang he would need to pay $5000 now and then $5000 once the job was secured. Chang thought this was a lot of money and asked if he could speak with the restaurant in Sydney first. Jo said that he would ask the restaurant manager to email Chang with more details.

Chang received an email from Sam at Roasted Roo Bar and Bistro in Sydney. Sam said that they would like to offer him a chef position and emailed him a copy of an employment contract. Chang looked at Roasted Roo Bar and Bistro on the internet and thought it looked like a great place to work.

Chang organised another meeting with Jo. They met at the same restaurant and Chang gave Jo $5000 to secure the job with Roasted Roo Bar and Bistro.

Later that day Chang received an email from Sam at Roasted Roo Bar and Bistro in Sydney with a formal job offer. The email also asked Chang to provide another $5000 to Jo, so that all the paperwork could be lodged with the department. Chang made this payment to Jo.

Chang did not hear anything for a couple of weeks and sent many emails to Jo, but did not receive any response. Chang sent emails to Sam at Roasted Roo Bar and Bistro and did not receive any response. Chang contacted the department and was advised that no application had been lodged with the department. Chang became very worried and called Roasted Roo Bar and Bistro in Sydney to speak with Sam. Roasted Roo Bar and Bistro’s manager said no-one called Sam worked there and they did not need any chefs. Chang explained that he had been in email contact with Sam and gave them Sam’s email address. Roasted Roo Bar and Bistro’s manager said the email address for Sam was not linked to their restaurant and that they had never heard of him.

Chang was really upset as he realised he had been the victim of a scam and had lost a lot of his hard-earned savings.

Stay tuned for another scenario next week about working in your nominated position.

Are you interested in Australia’s 2015-16 permanent migration programme?

Every year, we set a migration programme to best support Australia’s economic and social goals. This year’s programme looks like this:

Visual guide to Migration Programme in 2014-15

To help set 2015-16’s programme, we have prepared a discussion paper, which is now online at www.immi.gov.au/pub-res/Pages/discussion-papers/overview.aspx?heading=the-2015-16-migration-programme. This discussion paper provides a broad starting point for thinking about the best settings for migration levels next year.

At the end of the discussion paper, you will find a short survey. This is your chance to tell us what you think is the optimal size and composition of the permanent migration programme. Your responses will be confidential.

So have your say – read the discussion paper, take the survey and let your government know your thoughts before Friday, 5 December 2014.

Migration agent fees and charges – part 2

You might have read our recent post on how much a migration agent should cost. This is the second part to our series and focuses on when you should pay your agent.

When should you pay your agent?

Some agents may ask you to pay in advance of services being provided, while others will charge when their services are complete.

If your agent asks you to pay in advance or takes money before completing all their services to you, your payment must go into the agent’s ‘clients’ account.’ This must be separate from their business operating accounts or personal bank accounts.  The only time an agent can use money from this account is when:

  1. They need to pay disbursements on your behalf such as your visa application charge
  2. They need to be reimbursed for disbursements they have paid on your behalf with their own money
  3. They receive their professional fees once they have completed a certain amount of work.

If a visa application has several parts, for example under the Employer Nominated Scheme or a visa with a skills assessment component, your agent may expect payment on completion of each component rather than at the end when all work for the entire visa application is complete.

Before an agent can take money out of the clients’ account to pay their professional fees, they should give you a written ‘Statement of Services.’  This must show:

  • the work your agent has done for you so far
  • how much your agent has charged for that completed work and whether it is charged by service or by the hour.

The Statement of Services should only list work already performed rather than to be performed.  It should not include any services that are not listed in your Agreement for Services and Fees.

If an agent requires payment upon completion of work, you will pay for their professional fees in one payment when all services have been delivered.

Whether an agent decides to charge you up-front or after completing services, they must issue an invoice for their professional fees and for each disbursement.  After you pay each invoice, they must provide you with a receipt for each amount paid.

Migration Agent Fees and Charges P2

What if an agent changes their fees?

Your agent must inform you as soon as they become aware of any change to the fees they will charge you, for example extra work your agent did not know about when they agreed to work for you. They must inform you in writing about the extra cost and the total likely cost as a result of the change in fees.

Your agent cannot do work for you in a way that increases the cost of the work, for example by seeking advice from specialists when it’s not needed.

You can find a table of average fees charged by registered migration agents for common visa types on the Authority’s website. See Agent fees

Information on agent fees is also provided in the following languages:

Agent fees in Arabic – رسومالوكلاء

Agent fees in Chinese -移民代理费用

Agent fees in Russian – Вознаграждение за агентские услуги

Agent fees in Vietnamese – Lệ phí Đại diện Di trú

Agent fees in Hindi – एजेंटकीफ़ीस

Agent fees in Farsi رسومالوكلاء

Need migration advice? There are over 5000 Australian registered migration agents in Australia.  Find one at www.mara.gov.au