Non citizens in Australia are being reminded that they must have a valid visa while living and working in the country, with concerns growing about the number of Irish people overstaying what is allowed on their documents.

It is understood that immigration officials do not go hunting for specific people who may have breached their visas by overstaying and many come to their notice for other reasons such as a driving offence or tax irregularities.

However, immigration officers do encourage those who have overstayed their visa to get in touch with officials, even if they live in locations outside of the major cities. For example, officials are visiting south west New South Wales in September to provide immigration information to people who may need it.

A spokesperson for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) said the Community Status Resolution Service (CSRS) outreach programme enables people in regional communities, who do not have a valid Australian visa or are on a bridging visa, to talk with immigration officers about specific issues they might be facing.

'The Department is committed to ensuring the integrity of Australia's migration and visa programmes. Non-citizens must have a valid visa to remain in Australia and this is an opportunity for people to get their visa status in order before they are detected in a compliance operation,' the spokesman added.

He pointed out that it is always preferable for unlawful non-citizens to come forward voluntarily and work with the Department to resolve their immigration status issues. There are significant penalties including lengthy exclusion bans for persons who are removed from Australia.

'In addition to providing information, DIBP staff can, where appropriate, grant a short term bridging visa to people while they work through their immigration matter,' the spokesman said.

But there is growing evidence that even in large cities there are growing numbers of visa over stayers. According to the Claddagh Association in Perth, which helps Irish nationals in difficulty, hundreds are overstaying their temporary visas and many don't want to go back home so work for cash under the system to try to stay in Australia.

It is estimated that more than 100,000 Irish people moved to Australia in the six years after the economic crash in Ireland in 2008 on employer-sponsored 457 visas which allow them to stay for up to four years. But they have found it hard to find more permanent employment that would allow them to stay longer.

AUSTRALIAworkforceMany were able to get unskilled jobs on construction sites, but now there are fewer jobs and they don't have the required qualifications to get a more skilled job.

Figures from the DIBP show that between July 2014 and June 2015 some 92 Irish citizens were removed for visa misdemeanours, up from just 16 in 2010/2011. A further 309 returned to Ireland voluntarily following discussions with immigration officials about overstaying their visas.