The Australian Government has established a sponsorship compliance framework to make sure that employers who sponsor foreign workers follow certain rules and treat their employees fairly.  This framework outlines the responsibilities of sponsors, the actions that can be taken if these responsibilities are not met, and the powers of Immigration Inspectors who oversee this process.

Most view compliance as a cost, but at Gilton Valeo we understand that compliance (when done right) can help with building a robust immigration (global mobility) program:

  1. Compliance is peace of mind for all stakeholders which generates trust, enhances the employee experience and helps improve reputation.
  2. Compliance can force businesses to consider building streamlined processes that have the right checks and balances, which in turn cultivates creative problem-solving and innovation.
  3. Compliance reduces costs – fines, penalties and infringement notices can add up not to mention losing access to overseas labour markets can hinder growth.
  4. Compliance is a reminder of other program stakeholders such as families, businesses and the like who need to access the migration program.

Now let’s break down the key aspects of the departmental framework!

Why the Sponsorship Compliance Framework Exists

The main goals of the sponsorship compliance framework are to make sure that:

  1. The working conditions of foreign workers meet Australian workplace standards.
  2. Foreign workers are not taken advantage of by their sponsors.
  3. Visa programs are used for their intended purpose.
  4. All work sponsors follow the same set of obligations and requirements.

What Sponsors Must Do and Consequences for Non-Compliance

Sponsors, which are employers who sponsor foreign workers, have certain obligations.  If they fail to meet these obligations, authorized officers (often called Inspectors) from the government can take several actions, such as:

  • Imposing fines (civil penalties) on the sponsor.
  • Temporarily preventing the sponsor from sponsoring more people.
  • Banning the sponsor from applying to sponsor in the future.
  • Cancelling the sponsor’s approval.
  • Issuing infringement notices.
  • Requiring the sponsor to make a legally binding commitment to fix the issue.

The Role of Immigration Inspectors

Inspectors are individuals appointed by the government who play a critical role in ensuring that sponsors follow the rules.  They have specific powers to:

  • Educate sponsors about visa programs for foreign workers.
  • Check whether sponsors are following the rules by conducting audits.
  • Apply immigration laws to sponsors through different penalties and sanctions.

When and How Inspectors Can Use Their Powers

Inspectors can exercise their powers during working hours or if they believe it’s necessary for specific purposes.  Broadly speaking, these purposes include investigating whether sponsors are following their obligations or if they’re involved in illegal activities related to foreign workers including investigating the following:

  1. Failure to satisfy a sponsorship obligation;
  2. Provision of false or misleading information;
  3. Application of variation criteria no longer met;
  4. Contravention of Law – any law!
  5. Unapproved change to professional development program or special program;
  6. Failure to pay security (the provision to require a security is currently not being used under policy);
  7. Failure to comply with certain terms of special program agreement.

Importantly, inspectors cannot exceed those powers and cannot open up Pandora’s box.

Inspectors’ Entry and Investigation Powers

Inspectors have the authority to enter business premises or other places without using force.  They can do this to inspect work processes, interview people, and request records or documents that are relevant to their investigation.  They must show their identification before entering and can’t use their powers for any other purpose.

Assisting Inspectors and Cooperation

Inspectors can be accompanied by assistants who are qualified and authorized to help them.  These assistants must follow the direction of the Inspector and cannot exercise the same powers as the Inspector.  If a sponsor doesn’t cooperate with the Inspector’s requests, it can lead to serious consequences, including penalties or cancellation of their approval.

Asking for Information and Documents

Inspectors can ask people to provide their name and address if they believe they’ve broken certain rules.  They can also ask for specific records or documents that are related to their investigation.  People who fail to provide this information may face penalties.

Keeping Records and Documents

Inspectors can keep records or documents that are produced for them during their investigation.  They can inspect, make copies of these documents, and keep them for as long as necessary.  The person who provided the documents and authorised individuals can also inspect or copy these records.

Some Important Tips

If you are ever confronted with an inspection (whether scheduled or unplanned), you should always:

  1. Ask to see identification and take a copy of the document;
  2. Ask the inspector about the nature of the visit and attempt to ascertain the query or issue at hand;
  3. If you are able to ascertain the query or issue, you can either request that the meeting be conducted when you are better prepared or instead let the inspector know that you will need time to collate the information;
  4. Take your time with collating information and if it appears too onerous, you should request that the meeting be conducted at a more convenient time;
  5. Seek legal advice as required.

Final Thoughts

Australia’s sponsorship compliance framework is designed to ensure that foreign workers are treated fairly by their sponsors.  Inspectors play a vital role in enforcing these rules and making sure sponsors fulfil their obligations.  This system helps maintain a level playing field for foreign workers and contributes to ethical work practices in the country.

Gilton Valeo can answer your questions about Australia’s immigration system

As experts in Australian immigration, Gilton Valeo can guide you in identifying the best immigration pathways to bring people over to start your Australian office, provide you with strategic consulting along the way, and connect you with our partners to make sure everything goes smoothly.

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