On 30 November 2015, the Migration Amendment (Charging for a Migration Outcome) Act 2015 came into effect to make it unlawful for a person to ask for, offer, give or receive a benefit in return for a migration outcome in relation to certain skilled work visa programmes. These sanctions are not restricted to sponsors of 457 visa holders.
This Act was introduced in response to Recommendation 10.7 of the Independent Review into Integrity in the Subclass 457 Programme. Although there were existing compliance measures to ensure business sponsors were held accountable for a breach of their obligations towards 457 visa holders, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection ("DIBP") was previously unable to take direct action in cases where payments for visa outcomes occurred. Explicit sanctions were required to address this conduct.
A new criminal and civil penalty framework has been introduced which allows sanctions to be imposed on sponsors and other third parties who engage in such conduct. Sanctions include:
- up to two years imprisonment;
- fines of up to $64,000 for an individual person and $324,000 for a body corporate; and
- visa cancellation.
The introduction of these new sanctions send a clear message that payment for visa outcomes will not be tolerated. This new penalty regime is necessary to assist in maintaining and improving the integrity of the 457 visa programme and Australian workplace law.