Migration Consultant, Lucinda Wright and Migration Agent, Christopher Serow from Armidale law firm, Legal Minds; featured DIAC Industry Outreach Officers, Suzanne Gillham and Satinder Pasricha and RDANI Senior Project Officer, Kim-Trieste Hastings.
A serious warning for employers of workers from overseas was delivered during a recent tour of free seminars and one-on-one meetings with representatives of Regional Development Australia Northern Inland (RDANI) and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). Employers were warned about their need to understand and comply with visa requirements; breaches can now potentially lead to criminal charges. Previously, the penalties have been fines only. Local organisations, employers and visa applicants have voiced their appreciation of the immigration information update.
The Immigration Department information sessions and meetings took place in Armidale, Tamworth and Moree. They featured DIAC Industry Outreach Officers, Suzanne Gillham and Satinder Pasricha and RDANI Senior Project Officer, Kim-Trieste Hastings. Ms Hastings explained that visa programs perform a tough balancing act, addressing skill shortages within regulations designed to stop skilled workers from overseas from taking jobs from Australians. She said that the need to have Immigration staff explain new and existing policies in the region is clear, not only due to the complexities but also with the serious consequences of visa condition breaches. "The region needs to support these visits to keep them coming."
Ms Hastings stressed that it is the responsibility of visa applicants and employers to learn as much as possible about the often complex immigration processes that they might be involved with, warning that when an unlawful breach occurs, ignorance is no defense. "It's up to employers to check that an overseas person has the ability to do the work required and meets other requirements, such as a stipulated level of English language ability. They can do this on the DIAC website page: Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO)".
Christopher Serow is the Principal, Solicitor Director and Migration Agent with Armidale law firm, “Legal Minds”. He has reflected on the Immigration visit and why it was beneficial to his legal practice, his clients and the wider region. "It's of great benefit to us in the community to have members of the Department come up and address some of the substantial changes to migration law which have taken place. People in Sydney are able to access information and meet at such seminars so simply, while we can be forgotten out here" he said. "Migration law changes faster than tax law. The recent political debate in the media in relation to 457 visas is just one example. It is critical that we're kept informed of the changes as they take place."
Joy Harrison is a Refugee and Multicultural Liaison Nurse with Hunter New England Health and took the opportunity to make the Immigration Department aware of what she has come to view as a major issue. "Having the correct private health insurance, if you are on a temporary working visa, is absolutely essential. One of the biggest problems we've come across is with the exclusion clause that private health insurers have, which excludes obstetric services for the first 12 months. Some women get caught short with a pregnancy in that first 12 months, which becomes a huge financial burden for them."
"The DIAC visit was hugely successful and I think it is very important that people from the city bring their information direct to the country, so local people can know the impacts and intricacies of the various visa programs. It was also good to convey the issues we come across in this region," she said.