New law criminalises payments in exchange for migration outcomes

1 Dec 15

AUSTRALIA

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? Australia has made it a criminal offence for visa sponsors to request or accept payments for the purpose of securing a migration outcome.

What does the change mean? Sponsors or third parties who request or accept such payments face the possibility of both criminal and civil penalties, including up to two years in jail and fines as high as A$64,800 per person.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate.
  • Visas/permits affected: All temporary and permanent work visas, including Subclass 457 visas.
  • Who is affected: Employers sponsoring foreign nationals on Australian visas.
  • Business impact: The new law introduces stiff penalties for companies and individual company officials who request or accept payments to secure migration outcomes.

Background: In March, the Australian Government announced its support for a host of reforms to the 457 programme, including a proposal to establish “robust” penalties for sponsors who accept payments to help secure migration outcomes. The Government introduced a bill in September that covered not just Subclass 457 visas, but all temporary and permanent work visas. Officials said the bill was designed to cut down on the exploitation of foreign workers and help ensure that the Australian labour market is not undercut by low wages.

The bill was approved by the Federal Parliament, and it received Royal Assent and took effect Monday.

While the law does not permit accepting or soliciting payments for helping secure a migration outcome, it does allow for “payment of a reasonable amount for a professional service” in the visa process. An official memorandum on the law states that a payment should be “considered reasonable if it is commensurate with market rates.”

BAL Analysis: While the law allows for reasonable payment for professional services, it introduces enhanced penalties – including jail time – and provides a deterrent to those who might solicit or accept illegal payments to sway an immigration outcome.

This alert has been provided by BAL Australia. For additional information, please contact australia@balglobal.com.

MARN: 9683856

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