Foreign workers sponsored by Australian companies on 457 visas are being urged to make sure they know their rights and report employers who abuse the system.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has pointed out that sponsor businesses have a number of obligations they must follow or face serious penalties and fines.


Your visa sponsor cannot ask you to repay specific costs, such as the costs associated with your sponsorship and nomination.​

'Your sponsor cannot ask you to repay specific costs, such as the costs associated with your sponsorship and nomination. Visa holders need to be aware of their sponsor's obligations,' said a DIBP spokesman.

'Everyone working in Australia is entitled to basic rights and protections in the workplace. If you are a visa holder and believe that your sponsor is not meeting their sponsorship obligations you can report them anonymously,' added the spokesman.

Visa holders should be aware that if their sponsor is making them work excessive hours or their rights are not being met in the workplace, they can contact the Fair Work Ombudsman which can help settle workplace disputes.

The DIBP has issued an example of how things can go wrong.

Sasha, who had been working as an electrician and had been sponsored by Thunder Electrical Ltd., was promised that after two years they would sponsor her for permanent residence. She was to work 38 hours and be paid $1,037 a week.

She was enjoying her time working and living in Australia, but after three months she was approached by her employer who demanded she pay back money for visa costs. Overall, he demanded she pay back $12,000. If she failed to pay back this money, the sponsor threatened to cancel her visa and not sponsor her for permanent residence. Sasha was very concerned as her new life in Australia was in jeopardy.

Over the next few weeks, with Sasha's reluctant agreement, her employer withheld $150 from her pay every week to pay back the visa costs. The sponsor also started demanding that she work longer hours and to work on her days off.

Sasha was exhausted and struggling to pay rent and bills due to the deductions to her pay. She did not know what to do. She thought that if she stopped paying the sponsor and working the longer hours, her visa would be cancelled.

Sasha spoke to her co-workers and discovered that they too were paying back large sums of money to the employer and working longer hours. It appeared to her that she was not the only employee being exploited.

Sasha's friend noticed that she was worried about work and stressed about her visa. She told Sasha that she could report her employer to the DIBP. Her friend told her that her employer did not have the power to cancel her visa as only the department could do that. Her friend also informed her that she could look for another job and seek sponsorship with another company.

Sasha took her friend's advice and anonymously reported her sponsor to the DIBP through the dob-in line on the website. As a result, departmental officers visited Sasha's workplace and discovered that employees were paying visa costs back to the sponsor. The sponsor was barred from further sponsorships and referred to the Fair Work Ombudsman for investigation because of the excessive hours Sasha and her colleagues were being forced to work, and the deductions held from their wages.

The Fair Work Ombudsman found that the employees of the business had been underpaid and that the employer was in breach of the Fair Work Act. As a result, the company was required to pay Sasha and her co-workers for all the overtime worked for which they had not been paid.

Meanwhile, Sasha was able to find a new sponsor who met their obligations and she was eventually sponsored for permanent residence. The Fair Work Ombudsman was able to assist Sasha in obtaining the money that was owed to her.