The quick guide to workplace visas for employers

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure that you only employ legal workers. One of the best ways of doing this is to check a potential employee’s work visa. There are many different work visas out there, so if you have any concerns about which one a potential employee should have, contact the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, which enforces Australia’s immigration laws.

If you don’t comply with the immigration laws regarding the employment of eligible workers, you may be held liable and subject to penalties or infringement notices. On June 1, 2013, new laws were introduced for businesses that employ illegal workers.

So what is a legal worker and what visa options are out there? Below is a guide to help you get your head around the basics.

What is a legal worker?

Legal workers are Australian citizens, permanent residents and people in Australia on valid visas that allow them to work. This includes New Zealand citizens. Not all visas allow someone to work. For example, some visitors’ visas preclude non-citizens from working.

Below are some of the most common work visas:

Skilled Workers Temporary Visa Options

The Temporary Work (Skilled) 457 visa allows skilled workers to come to Australia and work for an approved business for up to four years. A person must be sponsored by an approved business to qualify, and a business cannot sponsor someone for this visa if it can’t find an Australian citizen or permanent resident to do the skilled work.

Skilled Workers Permanent Visa Options

From July 1, 2012, a new Employer Nomination Scheme and Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme became available.

The Employer Nomination Scheme (186) visa is open to skilled workers from outside Australia or skilled temporary residents who live and work in Australia. People can apply for this visa if they have been nominated by an approved Australian employer, are aged below 50 and meet the skills, qualifications and English language requirements.

The Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (187) visa enables employers in regional, remote or low-population-growth areas of Australia to nominate skilled workers from overseas, or temporary residents living and working in Australia, to fill skilled vacancies in their business. To apply for this visa, a person must be nominated by an approved employer who will nominate the person for a position in their business in regional Australia, be aged below 50 and meet the skills, qualifications and English language requirements.

There are three streams within each of these visa sub-classes: the Temporary Residence Transition stream is for 457 visa holders who have worked for two years and their employer wants to offer them a permanent position; the Direct Entry stream is for people who have never or only briefly worked in Australia; and the Agreement stream is for people sponsored by an employer through a labour or regional migration agreement.

Working Holiday Visa (417 and 462)

A working holiday visa is usually issued to those taking an extended holiday but want to supplement it with short-term work. This visa permits anyone between 18 and 30 to study and work in Australia for up to 12 months. This visa lets the holder work for up to six months with one employer.

How to check if a visa is valid

The government website VEVO ( Visa Entitlement Verification Online) lets you check if someone is allowed to work in Australia. It will also tell you if there are any work limitations associated with a particular visa.

There seem to be lots of names, acronyms and paperwork to get your head around, but it’s important to look into a prospective employee’s visa to be sure you’re not held accountable for any penalties. For more information, visit

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