Australian officials are reminding people looking for work in the country that they should avoid and even report offers of a visa in return for payment and watch out for scams.

A few months ago it became a criminal offence to ask for, receive or offer a benefit in return for visa sponsorship or employment.

"Paying for visa sponsorship is considered unacceptable by the Australian Government as it undermines the integrity of the skilled work programmes, which are designed to address genuine skill shortages in the Australian labour market by making employees available from outside Australia," said a spokesman for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP).

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"It is not acceptable for sponsors, nominators, employers or other third parties to make a personal gain from their position in a paying for visa sponsorship arrangement, nor is it acceptable for current or prospective visa holders to obtain permanent residence in Australia, or have the opportunity to work in Australia by providing a benefit to an employer for a job," he added.

The DIBP is also warning that there are scams out there where criminal offer false promises of work and permanent residence in Australia as a way to exploit or steal money from people.

"We are committed to educating people about the correct processes for applying to live and work in Australia and to assist them to protect themselves from migration fraud and scams. It is important that you understand your rights and your employer's obligations to ensure you are protecting yourself," the spokesman explained.

"Most people follow the appropriate and lawful process in meeting visa and sponsorship requirements, a minority do not. We undertake a range of measures to identify those who are engaging in fraudulent activities and have penalties in place to deal with visa holders and sponsors who are found to be doing the wrong thing," he added.

He also pointed out that while the new legislation was cast broadly to include third parties such as professional service providers because of circumstances where unlawful payments have been disguised in the context of fees charged for other professional services, there is no intention of using this legislation to sanction the delivery of legitimate professional services for profit.

"Similarly, we have no intention of using this framework to sanction legitimate business activities or to pursue businesses which require visa holders to reimburse costs that are otherwise prohibited from being passed on under the individual visa programme. This does not, however, preclude the pursuit of unlawful activities under more appropriate legislative provisions," the DIBP spokesman warned.

The DIBP offers advice on how to avoid scams including being aware of visa application charges and processes that apply to your particular situation and being cautious of any job offer requiring an upfront payment or paying back some of your salary.

Anyone using a migration agent should make sure they are registered with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority and all visa applications should only be lodged directly with the DIBP and an agent does this on the applicant's behalf.