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How to Employ Legal Workers

There has been an unprecedented rise in immigration monitoring activities by the Australian Border Force in recent times.

There has been an unprecedented rise in immigration monitoring activities by the Australian Border Force in recent times. Businesses that have failed to comply with the requirement to employ legal workers, depending on the severity of the breach, are served warnings, infringement notices and civil penalties.

Failing to employ legal workers can result in penalties and sanctions for employers, regardless of whether the employer was aware that someone was an illegal worker. Under Australian law, employers are required to take reasonable steps to make sure they are not employing, referring or contracting illegal workers.

Department of Home Affairs expects employers to check that all non-citizens working for them are permitted to work in Australia. This includes paid and unpaid workers, contractors, and workers employed through labour hire or referral companies.

Who Can You Employ?

The following persons can be employed by an Australian business:

  • Australian citizens
  • Australian Permanent Residents
  • New Zealand Citizens
  • Holders of visas will allow them to legally work in Australia

How Do I Know?

To confirm Australian or New Zealand citizenship an employer can sight:

  • Australian or New Zealand passport
  • Australian birth certificate and form of photo identification
  • Evidence of Australian citizenship and form of photo identification
  • Certificate of status for New Zealand citizens in Australia and a form of photo ID.

To confirm permanent resident status, an employer can sight:

  • Certificate of permanent resident status and form of photo identification
  • A passport issued by the government of another country along with a visa entitlement verification online check

What Do I Have to Do if They Are a Visa Holder?

Employers are required to take reasonable steps, at reasonable times, to confirm that a non-citizen is allowed to work.

The Department of Home Affairs recommends that checks should be conducted before a non-citizen commences work, within two days of visa expiry and dates when the non-citizen’s circumstances change.

If a non-citizen is a bridging visa holder and VEVO does not show a visa expiry date, the Department recommends that a check be performed every three months to ensure that the non-citizen still has the permission to work.

Penalties and Sanctions for Employing Illegal Workers

The penalties for employing illegal workers are as shown in the table below:

Sanction categoryMaximum penalty
Illegal Worker Warning Notice (IWWN)Administrative warning
InfringementAUD 3,480 fine for individuals

AUD 18,900 fine for body corporate

Civil penaltyAUD18,900 fine for individuals

AUD 94,500 fine for body corporate

Criminal offenceAUD 25,200 fine and/or two years imprisonment for individuals

AUD 126,000 fine for body corporate

Aggravated criminal offenceAUD 63,000 fine and/or five years imprisonment for individuals

AUD 315,000 fine for body corporate

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is general only, and not to be taken as Migration Advice. Please be aware that visas and regulations are subject to frequent change. It is advisable to verify the latest information from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and or seek specific advice relating to your circumstances from a MARA Registered Migration Agent.