Immigration law: Penalties for failure to ensure employees have correct work visas

New laws introduce no-fault civil penalties for employers who fail to ensure employees have correct work visas and provide new investigative powers to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

Changes to migration laws mean an employer who allows a foreign national to work without the correct work visa will be fined. The fine is currently $15,300 for an individual; and for a corporation the penalty may be five times that.

There is no distinction between innocently allowing someone to work without permission or knowingly acting in disregard of the law. However, an employer can avoid the civil penalty if they have taken “reasonable steps” to verify the worker holds a valid visa and complies with its conditions. Reasonable steps include using the department’s Visa Entitlement Verification Online service (at tinyurl.com/yc5pjeu) prior to, or within a few days of, an employee commencing employment.

The new laws also provide the immigration department with investigative powers to require employers to provide documents or information about possible contraventions and offences, and empower the courts to issue search warrants to search premises, operate electronic equipment and download material and seize evidence.

Contact your solicitor for information on work visas.