Entitlement to work.

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Right to Work Documentation in Australia

Any employee recruited to your business must have the appropriate rights and correct documentation for employment in Australia.

You are liable if you knowingly employ an illegal worker, knowing they are not an Australian or New Zealand citizen and are working without a visa, or in breach of their visa conditions. To avoid this risk, always check the work entitlements of your employees.

We recommend you check if someone has a valid visa and is entitled to work before you employ them. Some types of documentation are acceptable proof of entitlement to work in Australia and some are not.

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Eligibility and the Right to Work in Australia

Australian Citizens

Australian citizens have no restrictions placed on them working in Australia. However, a citizen may have their working rights restricted due to other factors, e.g. criminal history.

New Zealand Citizens

New Zealand citizens do not need to apply for a visa to work in Australia but will usually receive a temporary one when they arrive that allows them to visit, study stay and work in Australia. Some restrictions apply.

Permanent Residents

Like Australian citizens, permanent residents have no restrictions placed on them working in Australia. A permanent resident, again like Australian citizens, may have their working rights restricted due to other factors, e.g. criminal history.

Non-Citizens with a Valid Visa

Whether or not a prospective or current employer can work in Australia will depend on the conditions of the visa they hold. Further, their visa may restrict the type and hours per week of work they can undertake.

There are many different visas in Australia that provide a person with a right to work in Australia. Employsure recommends you speak to a migration lawyer or agent to find out more about immigration legislation.

In terms of workplace relations legislation, it is your obligation as an employer to ensure your employees are eligible to work in Australia. For instance, you can use the Australian government department of home affairs website which offers a Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) service to check the status of a current or prospective employee’s visa, which will tell you if they are allowed to work and any working conditions that apply.

You need to make sure the employee has a valid working visa the entire time that work for you, so check it regularly, especially if their circumstances change.

According to business.gov.au, you may also have additional reporting obligations depending on your employee’s visa.

Document Proof of Right to Work

Each of the following are considered acceptable documentation that allows a person to work in Australia:

  • Australian birth certificate
  • Australian citizenship certificate
  • Australian or New Zealand passport
  • Evidence of permanent residence (ie. overseas passport with VEVO check)
  • Certificate of Status for New Zealand Citizens in Australia and photo identification
  • Valid visa with permission to work (not all visas allow people to work)

Obtain certified copies of any original, acceptable documents or have the original documents certified by someone authorised, like a Justice of the Peace (JP). Keep these on record in the employee’s file.

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Supporting Documentation

If the employee provides acceptable documentation but it is not an Australian government-issued form of photo identification, you can ask the employee to provide the following Australian-issued supporting documentation as proof of identity:

  • Driver’s license
  • Medicare card
  • Enrolment to vote in Australian state or federal election
  • Tax File Number
  • References from previous employers and employment agencies
  • Tenancy agreements or home ownership details
  • Tertiary qualifications and trade certificate
  • Change of name certificates

It is important to remember these documents alone do not allow a person to legally work in Australia. They must only serve as supporting documentation along with any of the documents mentioned in the Proof of Right to Work section. Otherwise, they will still be considered an illegal worker in Australia.

Visa Holder Entitlements

All visa holders with a right to work in Australia are entitled to the same minimum employment rights and entitlements as Australian citizens and those with Australian permanent resident status.  

This means employees on visas are entitled to:

  • at least the minimum wage or the relevant ‘market salary rate’ for the job they are doing
  • payslips, superannuation and to pay tax
  • safe workplaces
  • legal pay rates, leave conditions, shift arrangements and dismissal processes to which Australian employees would be entitled

Whether a visa holder has a right to work in Australia is a matter Employsure recommends you discuss with a migration lawyer, however we can help you understand your employee’s entitlements. Call us for free initial advice on 1300 207 182.

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The information in the above article has been compiled on the basis of general information current at the time of publication. Please note that the contents of this article and website and any information provided by our Fair Work Help Line do not constitute legal advice and are not intended to be a substitute for legal or other professional advice and should not be relied upon as such. Your specific circumstances or changes in circumstances after publication may affect the completeness or accuracy of this information. You should seek legal advice or other professional advice in relation to any particular matters you or your organisation may have. To the maximum extent permitted by law, we disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions contained in this information or any failure to update or correct this information. It is your responsibility to assess and verify the accuracy, completeness, currency and reliability of the information on this website, and to seek professional advice where necessary. Nothing contained on this website is to be interpreted as a recommendation to use any product, process or formulation or any information on this website. For clarity, Employsure does not recommend any material, products or services of any third parties.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Is Work Eligibility?

    Work eligibility is the right to work in Australia.

  • Who Has The Right To Work In Australia?

    A person can legally work in Australia if:

    • they are an Australian citizen or permanent resident or a New Zealand citizen, or
    • they hold a valid visa with permission to work
  • What Are Proof Of Working Rights In Australia?

    The below documents prove citizenship or permanent residence:

    • Australian or New Zealand passport
    • Australian birth certificate and photo identification
    • Australian citizenship evidence and photo identification
    • Certificate of Status for New Zealand Citizens in Australia and photo identification
    • an overseas passport and a check from the Australian Department of Home Affairs’ online system Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) showing that they are a permanent resident

     

    With this proof, these people can work without restrictions in Australia in line with Australian employment law.

  • What Qualifies As A Legal Document?

    In terms of proof of a right to work, the following documents will suffice:

    • Australian or New Zealand passport
    • Australian birth certificate and photo identification
    • Australian citizenship evidence and photo identification
    • Certificate of Status for New Zealand Citizens in Australia and photo identification
    • an overseas passport and a check from the Australian Department of Home Affairs’ online system Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) showing that they are a permanent resident
  • What Are The Penalties For Employing Illegal Workers?

    There can be many different penalties or sanctions for employing illegal workers. It will depend on the circumstances of the employment e.g. whether the employer is sponsoring the visa holder to come and work for them in Australia, the specific conditions of the visa, and which obligations the employer fails to meet.

  • Can Non-Australian Citizens Work In Australia?

    Non Australian Citizens can work in Australia if they are from New Zealand and hold a special category visa, or if they have an overseas passport with a visa that allows them to work, for example permanent residents.

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