AUSTRALIA – Payment for Visas an Offence under Proposed Changes to Migration Law
The Australian Parliament has introduced a new bill that would make it a criminal offence for a person to request, receive, offer or give any benefit, including payment, in return for a sponsored visa, such as a Subclass 457 visa. The proposed law would give the Department of Immigration the option of cancelling a sponsored visa obtained in return for payment.
What Is the New Bill?
The bill, entitled the Migration Amendment (Charging for a Migration Outcome) Bill 2015, was introduced on 16 September and is intended to prevent payment for “sponsorship related events” that leads to exploitation of visa applicants and undermines the Australian migration framework. The proposed changes reflect some of the recommendations made in the Independent Review into Integrity in the Subclass 457 Programme released last year.
Penalties and Liabilities
The proposed new law makes payment for sponsored visas a criminal offence, with fines of up to AUD$64,800 for individuals and AUD$324,000 for a company, and criminal convictions of up to 2 years’ imprisonment.
Where criminal conduct is not shown, a civil penalty of AUD$43,200 for individuals, and AUD$216,000 for companies, may still be applied.
Criminal and civil liability will also extend to executive officers of companies, unincorporated associations, and all partners within a partnership.
Payment for visas excludes professional services provided in the assistance of a person obtaining a sponsorship related event. This may include advice and services provided by migration agents, lawyers, education and recruitment consultants. However, a defendant accused of benefiting bears the onus of proving that the payment was a reasonable amount.
- Whether or not the proposed measures are passed by the Australian Parliament, it is advisable to check that any fees or other benefits paid in respect of obtaining an Australian sponsorship visa are reasonable and not proscribed by law.