DIAC has released information which will no doubt send a few shivers down the back of many 457 visa holders. They will be requesting the ATO to hand over information regarding over one hundred thousand temporary residents who live in Australia whilst working for their sponsoring employers. These 457 visas can last up to 4 years.
Yesterday the Minister for Immigration Mr. Brendan O'Connor made claims that he believes about 10% of all 457 visa holders are abusing the system (read here). No evidence was supplied to support this claim and clearly the government is going into overdrive trying to look tough on abuses of the 457 visa
The government cannot cancel these visas just because there may be a perception that there are too many of them in circulation. However they can cancel them if they find employers are not meeting their obligations they agreed upon when asking permission to DIAC to become approved business sponsors.
One of these obligations (amongst many) is to pay their sponsored 457 visa holder the amount of salary which was approved by DIAC when they granted permission for the nominated position. These days the minimum base salary they must be paid is $51,400 but of course back in time it was a little less. Every year this minimum increases to match the increases in wages. Employers are not obligated to their 457 visa holders to grant them pay rises to meet the new minimum but they must be paid at least the amount offered in the original contract.
DIAC has always had the power to monitor employers to ensure they are doing the right thing but we have found in the last few years very few employers seemed to be checked. It is possible that this relaxation of the monitoring system has given encouragement to some unscrupulous employers to pay their 457 visa workers less than agreed upon with DIAC.
We speak to a large number of 457 visa holders and find that most of the sponsoring businesses look after them very well but occasionally, sadly, some do not. It is not that they are abused at work or treated like slaves, it is the subtle encouragement to work longer hours than their contract stipulates or are being paid less than they agreed upon when the visa was granted. We are sure there are other issues exist out there but we find these two to be the most common complaints.
It would be virtually impossible to monitor the hours a 457 visa holder works but is very easy to monitor how much they are paid. DIAC is obviously going to check of the taxable income declared of possibly all 457 visa holders in Australia. You will find in this article that the ATO has given official notice and it does not just relate only to 457 visa holders.
Given the advancement in data management it would be an easy exercise for a computer to flag incomes earned which appear less the minimum salary permitted. My Apple computer seems even smart enough to do that if you know how to push the right buttons.
The ATO data could also be used by DIAC to easily identify those visa holders who have received income from a second employer which of course is strictly prohibited under the conditions of the grant of all 457 visas.
Once DIAC identifies the anomalies they will send out a monitoring request to the sponsoring company. In this request there will be a demand to see the companies salary statements. These statements will identify which 457 employees earned which amounts. These will then be checked against the ATO data to see if they match. If the information does not match then they greyhounds will be set loose and the employer will be looking for the deepest rabbit hole they can find. No doubt they will pay an experienced migration agent to guard the entrance.
However the law and those who enforce it, have long arms, more than deep enough to grab any rabbit by the scruff of the neck and haul it into the spotlight. When the truth comes out and any cover ups are discovered the sponsoring business will most likely lose their permission to sponsor 457 visa holders. They will be free to run their businesses but the poor visa holders end up with a letter with the overall intent to cancel their visa if they cannot find another sponsor or do not lodge another visa application.
Whilst it is true that the employer has the responsibility to pay the right salary, taxes and superannuation (not the employee), when a business has its permission to sponsor cancelled; those who are being sponsored will have limited options to stay in Australia.