The biggest question all travellers to Australia ask is, “how can I stay longer?” You’ve fallen in love with the weather, the laid back lifestyle and all the other fantastic things Australia has to offer but your working holiday visa is up and you’re not ready to leave. So, what’s next!?
There are a number of different visa options, student visa’s, De Facto visa’s (if you’re lucky enough to have bagged yourself a hot Aussie citizen) and skilled independent visa’s. However, the most desired is the Visa 457 – The Employer Sponsorship visa. I mean what’s not appealing about it? The visa offers full-time work with a market rate salary upwards of $53,900, up to four years validity with the freedom to enter and depart Australia as many times as you like and the opportunity to apply for permanent residency (if nominated) after two years. You can work full time hours unlike the student visa, no skills assessments are required as with the skilled independent visa and no probationary period of two years as with a De Facto visa. I know what you’re thinking, “what am I waiting for!?”
457 visa’s are slowly becoming harder to come by especially with a requirement on employers to advertise current job vacancies and provide proof that it couldn’t be filled by a capable and qualified Australian Citizen or Permanent Resident. Having said that, the sponsors are out there but are you really getting a good deal?
My experience on a 457 visa wasn’t pretty – My employer had me by the balls, so to speak. My visa was constantly used as a threat. While there was a number of fair work issues and breaches of my employment rights it all boils down to the fact that they held my ticket into the country – was it worth the fight? There was far too much resting on my employment status.
I have created a list of 5 things I think all people deciding on being sponsored by a 457 employer should consider before signing on the dotted line.
Sign an agreement on your nomination.
If your overall goal is to become a permanent resident in Australia and not to depart at the expiry of your sponsorship visa then ask your employer for an agreement on your nomination. After two years, your company can (if they wish) nominate you for permanent residency. However, there is no requirement for them to do so, nor is there any instruction as to when they should do this. Employers are well aware of the fact that if they nominate you after two years there is nothing to stop you resigning once your permanent residency has been granted.
Sit with your employer and agree on a timeframe for your nomination and the conditions of this nomination. Perhaps the agreement may be that you will be nominated by your employer after two years regarding you meet certain targets, or that you will nominated after three years with no conditions, or it may even be that you are nominated after two years under the condition that you sign another employment contract with the company for one year. Whatever you both decide, it’s good to know from the start and having something in writing (especially if incorporated in to your employment contract) might lessen your chances of your employer doing the dirty on you!
Think carefully before accepting sponsorship with an agency.
Whether its in health, social care or construction being sponsored by an agency is always going to be a messy affair. Firstly, you are just a number and you will be required to work whatever hours are asked of you at whatever crappy job is assigned to you. Can you refuse? Sure, but what happens when your hours of work are then given to someone else… you lose out and risk falling below the minimum salary of $53,900 required for you to be sponsored. If this happens you could have your visa cancelled. When working for an agency it’s likely your weekly hours will not be set, therefore you will be working weekends, evenings, nights and whatever roster is handed to you. In fact, you are basically going to be on-call for the next 2-4 years, is that really how you pictured your life in Australia?
When signing your contract make sure it is clear about the minimum and maximum number or hours per week you will be working and check that working the minimum hours will still enable you to meet the salary threshold. Ask questions about your roster. Will they be set from month to month or week to week? Or are you going to be called up the night before and be known by all your friends as the one who can’t commit to any social events as your whole life is on hold just in case you get called in.
Find a job you love.
Do they really exist!? Perhaps not, but make sure you agree with the mission and the values of the company or organisation you are going to work for at the very least. You are going to be doing this job for at least two years and if your heart’s not in it, it’s going to spoil the experience. Talk to other employee’s about their experiences at work and seek their feedback. Don’t be tempted to take any old job because they can offer you sponsorship – the chances are they are turning to sponsoring employees from overseas because no one else wants to do the job.
Consider ALL visa options first.
Most of you will jump at the chance of sponsorship because you think it’s your only option or that other visa’s such as the skilled independent (subclass 189) just look like too much hassle. My only advice is to exhaust every ounce of information available to you first before dismissing a visa like the189. You may just find yourself jumping ship from the 457 sponsorship visa and boarding the 189 application process stress later down the line anyway (but oh it’s so worth it!). Once granted the 189 visa, the world is your oyster… no employer’s to answer to.
The best source of information for everything visa related is http://www.border.gov.au. The best option when contacting the department of immigration via telephone is to request a call back, otherwise you will find yourself sitting on hold for hours on end. Another recommendation is to speak to an immigration lawyer, there are plenty out there willing to give free advice, you only pay if you decide to proceed with a visa application (and hand them over $4000 for helping you to do so!).
Know your rights
You can only hope that being clued up on your employment rights and knowing the ins and outs of your visa requirements and expectations of both yourself and your employer will deter any unfair behaviour from the company or organisation. If it doesn’t at least you know when you are being taken for a ride and can make some informed decisions. Again, http://www.border.gov.au is the go to site for all your visa information and https://www.fairwork.gov.au is where you will find the low down on all your employment rights. Remember, that workplace harassment is unacceptable in all forms regardless of what visa you hold.
It’s important to recognise that some employers are just dogs! They prey on hard-working foreigners who want nothing more than to call Australia home. No amount of caution, information and preparation will stop you being taken advantage of. The only thing stoping me from naming and shaming my previous sponsor is that I still have friends employed with them who are currently fighting their own battles to call Australia home. On the flip side there are an abundance of companies and organisations out there who truly value their international workforce.
Whatever your sponsorship journey has in store for you, keep your head held high and your eye on the prize cos’ being an Aussie resident is pretty damn awesome!
Photo credit to Jennifer Habgood