Are you struggling to find suitably qualified staff for your business? Have you ever thought about sponsoring an overseas worker to fill a skills gap in your organisation? And how do you become a sponsor?
An employer sponsorship can be a great way for you to meet your staff needs where you cannot source appropriately skilled employees from the local labour market. An employer sponsored visa can also be an attractive option for a prospective foreign employee, with a pathway to permanent residency in Australia in certain instances.
As a sponsor, you will be subject to prescribed sponsorship obligations. An employer sponsor must, for example, notify the Department of Home Affairs (the Department) when certain events occur and pay for certain costs, such as, travel costs to enable the sponsored employee and their sponsored family members to depart Australia.
In this article, we discuss how to become a sponsor for some of the main employer sponsored visas, including the requirements that must be met to qualify as a sponsor, as well as how to apply to become a sponsor.
Standard Business Sponsor
A Standard Business Sponsor can sponsor an eligible overseas worker for a Subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa or a Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (SESR) (Provisional) visa, if they are unable to find a suitably qualified Australian to fill a position in their business. A standard business sponsorship generally lasts for five years.
Who Can Be A Standard Business Sponsor?
The following types of entities can apply for standard business sponsorship approval:
- sole traders;
- proprietary companies;
- public companies;
- government departments;
- statutory authorities;
- not-for-profit-organisations; and
- educational institutions.
So, how do you become a sponsor?
Requirements To Become A Standard Business Sponsor
In order to qualify for approval as a standard business sponsor, an entity must meet the following requirements:
Lawfully Operating A Business
To become a standard business sponsor, a business must be legally established and currently operating. The business can either be in or outside Australia.
To satisfy the requirement of being legally established, the SBS applicant must satisfy all applicable registration requirements as specified by the laws of the country in which the business operates (or intends to operate in). The registration requirements that apply will depend on the way the applicant’s business is structured and conducted.
If a company is legally established in Australia, the registration requirements may include the following (this will depend on the business structure):
- registration for tax purposes (ABN);
- registration of an ACN or ARBN with ASIC;
- registration of a business name (if the business trades under a name other than its legal name).
If the entity is established overseas, it needs to demonstrate to the Department that it is legally established under the relevant laws of the country in which it operates.
Operating A Business
To demonstrate that a business is operating, it should have a system of record keeping that substantiates the business activities being claimed. This applies to businesses that operate both in and outside Australia.
Under immigration policy, evidence that can be provided to demonstrate that a business is operating can include the following:
- balance sheet or statement of position for the most recently ended financial year (with comparative figures for previous financial year);
- profit and loss statement (or statement of performance) for the most recently ended financial year (with comparative figures for the previous financial year);
- business tax returns for the most recently ended financial year;
- Business Activity Statements (BAS) for each quarter between the end of the financial year and the date of application lodgement (if the SBS application is lodged more than three months from the date of the financial statements and tax return);
- detailed business plan;
- contract of sale for the purchase of the business;
- lease agreement for the business premises and/or business equipment;
- contracts to provide services;
- evidence of employment of staff;
- bank statements;
- annual report;
- letter of support from the accountant to the business.
No Adverse Information
There must be no adverse information known to the Department about the entity, or a person associated with the entity that is applying to be a standard business sponsor (or it is reasonable to disregard this information).
Local Labour And Employment Practices
If the entity operates in Australia, it should have a strong record of, or a demonstrated commitment to, employing local labour and it must declare that it will not engage in discriminatory recruitment practices.
For an entity that is operating outside Australia, it must provide evidence to demonstrate that its purpose in seeking approval as a standard business sponsor is to either:
- enable the sponsoring of subclass 482 TSS visa holders/applicants, who will establish, or assist in establishing, on the entity’s behalf a business operation in Australia with overseas connections; or
- fulfil (or assist in fulfilling) a contractual obligation for the entity.
Immigration policy provides the following examples of the types of evidence that may be considered by the Department:
- a company or business expansion plan;
- a joint venture agreement between the SBS applicant and a party in Australia;
- a contract between the SBS applicant and a party in Australia.
How To Apply To Become A Standard Business Sponsor
To apply to become a sponsor (i.e. standard business sponsorship approval), an entity must apply online via ImmiAccount. It must complete a sponsorship application and attach all required documents.
A sponsorship application fee of $420 must also be paid at time of lodgement of the application.
The entity may also consider applying to become an accredited sponsor, provided that it meets the eligibility requirements (these are in addition to those that apply for a standard business sponsorship).
One of the benefits of being an accredited sponsor is that the entity receives priority processing for all nomination and visa applications lodged under the subclass 482 TSS and subclass 494 SESR visa programs.
The entity can apply for sponsorship accreditation when it applies for standard business sponsorship approval, or when it applies to renew its existing sponsorship.
For further information about how to become a sponsor that is accredited, including the sponsorship accreditation requirements, conditions and benefits, please refer to our article on the Business Requirements For Accredited Sponsorship.
As an alternative to a standard business sponsorship, your business may apply to enter into a labour agreement with the Government if it can demonstrate that it is unable to meet its skilled labour needs in the Australian labour market, and the standard temporary or permanent visa programs are not available. One of the main benefits of entering into a labour agreement is its flexibility as it enables an employer to negotiate terms that meet the needs of the business (different types of agreements allow for varying levels of flexibility). Labour agreements are generally in effect for five years.
The following visas can be granted under a labour agreement:
- Subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa;
- Subclass 186 Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) visa; and
- Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) (SESR) visa.
Sponsored workers under a labour agreement may also have a pathway to permanent residency (depending on the terms of the agreement).
A labour agreement can provide concessions to the skilled visa criteria that must be satisfied under the Migration Regulations prior to grant. These criteria may include English, work experience, salary or age thresholds. Labour agreements can also be used to employ overseas workers in new or emerging occupations that are not defined in the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) (which is the framework that is used for migration purposes).
Once the labour agreement is executed, the employer is bound by its terms, as well as the general sponsorship obligations that apply to standard business sponsors.
Types Of Labour Agreements
There are five types of labour agreements:
- Company Specific labour agreements
- Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMA)
- Global Talent Employer Sponsored (GTES) agreements
- Industry labour agreements
- Project agreements
Let us now take a closer look at each type of labour agreement and the requirements that need to be met by the employer to apply to become a sponsor under a labour agreement.
Labour Agreement Requirements
Company Specific Labour Agreement
The company-specific labour agreement is designed for an employer where a genuine skills need is not already covered by an industry labour agreement and where a Designated Area Migration Agreement or project agreement is not already in place. The occupation which the employer is seeking to nominate under a labour agreement must also not already be available under the standard skilled visa programs (i.e. the TSS, SESR or ENS program), unless a strong and compelling business case has been provided.
The employer must demonstrate that they have an exceptional need that cannot be met by Australian workers. It must provide evidence of the niche skills that it is seeking from overseas, its efforts to recruit staff in Australia, and also provide a detailed job description including tasks that are required to be performed in the position that you are seeking to fill.
The positions must be at the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) occupation skill level 1 to 4. For businesses that are located in certain regional areas of Australia, the Department may consider skill level 5 positions in exceptional situations.
Skilled overseas workers generally must meet the ANZSCO skill requirements for that occupation as well as any industry registration or licensing requirements.
The employer may request concessions to the standard visa eligibility requirements regarding English language, work experience and salary (for the subclass 482 and 494 visa). They may also request an age concession for the permanent residency pathway under the ENS visa program.
The employer must demonstrate that overseas workers will not account for more than one-third of their total workforce and they must also have a plan in place to train and employ Australians so that a labour agreement is not needed in the future.
Be An Australian Business With Good Standing
The employer must meet the following criteria:
- be an Australian registered business with good standing;
- demonstrate that the business has been lawfully and actively operating in Australia for at least 12 months;
- provide evidence of the financial viability of the business from a chartered or certified practicing accountant. The business must also demonstrate that it can support the proposed number of workers from overseas that it is seeking to recruit;
- demonstrate that there is no adverse information about the business. and that it has not breached any laws in any jurisdiction of Australia or be under investigation for breaking the law by any appropriate authority;
- not be insolvent; and
- not have provided false or misleading information in any form to any appropriate authority at any time.
Consult With Industry Stakeholders
The employer must also consult with all relevant stakeholders. These may include the industry body, union and/or any community group that the labour agreement would impact (such as schools or health services).
Detailed information on the employer’s stakeholder consultation must be provided when lodging the labour agreement request.
Designated Area Migration Agreement
A Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) enables employers in regional areas of Australia to sponsor suitably qualified overseas workers. A DAMA provides access to more foreign workers than the standard skilled migration programs because a DAMA operates under an agreement-based framework, which provides greater flexibility for individual regions within Australia to respond to their unique economic and labour market conditions.
Each DAMA covers a defined regional area of Australia and is based on a two-stage process. At the first stage, a five-year deed of agreement (or head agreement) is executed between the Commonwealth Government and the region’s representative (called a Designated Area Representative or DAR). Each DAMA contains a range of occupations as well as agreed to terms and concessions for skilled visa eligibility criteria, as negotiated between the parties to the agreement.
At the second stage, businesses in the specified region may seek individual DAMA labour agreements under the head agreement terms and concessions. Individual DAMA labour agreements are between the Australian Government and endorsed employers/businesses operating within the relevant designated region. Employers must first apply for and be granted endorsement from the DAR before lodging a labour agreement request with the Department.
Where a DAMA labour agreement is approved, the business will be able to nominate and sponsor skilled and semi-skilled overseas workers for certain occupations (each DAMA head agreement covers a specified range of occupations).
DAMAs ensure that employers recruit Australian citizens and permanent residents as a first priority. Employers must therefore demonstrate that they have made a genuine attempt to hire Australians before getting access to a DAMA labour agreement.
South Australian DAMAs
In South Australia, there are currently two DAMAs which are currently in force:
- The Adelaide City Technology and Innovation Advancement Agreement – this covers the Adelaide metropolitan region and focuses on Adelaide’s high-tech growth industries, with occupations in the defence, space, advanced manufacturing and technology industries; and
- The South Australian Regional Workforce Agreement – this covers the entire state of South Australia, with occupations in the regional high growth industries in agribusiness, forestry, health and social services, aged care, hospitality, tourism, mining and the construction sectors.
The following DAMAs are currently in place across the rest of Australia:
- East Kimberley DAMA, Western Australia
- Pilbara DAMA, Western Australia
- South West DAMA, Western Australia
- The Goldfields DAMA, Western Australia
- Goulburn Valley DAMA, Victoria
- Great South Coast DAMA, Victoria
- Northern Territory DAMA, Northern Territory
- Orana DAMA, New South Wales
- Far North Queensland DAMA, Queensland
- Townsville DAMA, Queensland
Global Talent Employer Sponsored Agreement
The Global Talent Employer Sponsored (GTES) program enables employers to sponsor overseas workers for highly-skilled niche positions that cannot be filled by Australian workers through other standard visa programs. The program aims to bring globally mobile, highly-skilled and specialised individuals to Australia who can act as ‘job multipliers’ in Australian businesses, helping them to hire more local staff and fill critical areas of need.
Before the Department enters into a GTES agreement, a business must be able to demonstrate that they cannot fill the position through existing skilled visa programs. Once a GTES agreement is executed, the business can sponsor suitably qualified overseas workers for a TSS visa under the GTES.
To learn more about how the GTES program works, including how to sponsor an employee for a work visa and how to sponsor an employee for permanent residency under this program, please refer to the following articles:
Industry Labour Agreement
An industry labour agreement is one which is designed for a specific industry with fixed terms and conditions. To enter into such a labour agreement, the relevant industry must show ongoing labour shortages and that it has conducted extensive consultation within the industry.
The following industry agreements are currently in place:
- Minister of Religion
- Restaurant (premium dining)
The Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement increases access to skilled and semi-skilled migrant workers for the horticulture industry where appropriately qualified Australians are not available.
We recommend that you refer to our article on the Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement And Visas to learn more about how to sponsor an employee under the Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement.
A project agreement is for project companies with genuine skills shortages during the construction phase of resource or infrastructure projects.
To execute a project agreement, a project company needs to negotiate an overarching deed of agreement with the Department. The Department will then then negotiate individual labour agreements directly with employers.
Next, we examine how do you become a sponsor under a labour agreement.
How To Apply For A Labour Agreement
An employer can apply to become a sponsor under a labour agreement online on the Department’s website (ImmiAccount) using the Labour Agreement Request form and must attach all relevant documents. There is no cost to apply.
How do you become a sponsor under a DAMA labour agreement? In this case, the entity must first apply for and be granted endorsement from the DAR in their relevant state or territory before lodging a labour agreement request with the Department.
The application must address each requirement as it applies to the type of labour agreement for which an employer is seeking approval and must be accompanied by supporting documentary evidence. During processing, the employer may be contacted by the Department requesting further information or clarification.
If the application is approved, the employer will receive a copy of the proposed Labour Agreement for review and signature. Upon receipt of the signed Agreement, the Department will confirm once the Agreement is in effect.
Your Sponsorship Or Labour Agreement Is Approved … What Happens Next?
Once your business has received approval as a standard business sponsor or has executed a labour agreement with the Department, the next step is to nominate suitably qualified overseas workers to fill job vacancies in your business. Whether you apply under the TSS or SESR visa programs, the process is the same. That is, you must lodge a nomination application online with the Department. And your proposed employee must also separately lodge an online visa application.
The nomination and visa application requirements will depend on the visa being applied for. But generally, the nomination application relates to the position which you are seeking to fill and may include criteria regarding the terms and conditions of employment, labour market testing, demonstrating that the position is genuine and salary requirements.
The visa application relates to the employee having the necessary qualifications, skills, experience and English language competency to perform the nominated occupation
Get More Information
Skilled Visa Options For Selected Occupations
Please refer to our series of articles on the skilled visa options that are available for selected occupations below:
Designated Area Migration Agreement
For further information on the DAMA in South Australia, please see the following articles:
Employer Sponsored Regional Visa
For further information on the subclass 494 visa, please see the following articles:
Employer Sponsored Visa
Please refer to the following articles to learn about the Subclass 482 TSS visa and Subclass 186 ENS visa programs, including how do you become a sponsor and the sponsorship obligations:
To learn more about applying for a skilled visa, please see the following articles:
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Contact us to book a no-obligation consultation to find out more about how to become a sponsor and the requirements to apply to become a sponsor.
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In conclusion, we note that the above discussion provides an overview about how to become a sponsor and the requirements that must be met to apply to become a sponsor (as a standard business sponsor or under a labour agreement). We also provide links to further information so that you can learn more about how to sponsor an employee in your business.
Australia’s migration laws are complex, and each case is different. We recommend that you seek professional advice if you are seeking to sponsor workers in your business, as being fully informed will give you the best chance of achieving a successful outcome on your case. A migration professional can help you to do this.
For up to date advice on how to sponsor an employee, including how to become a sponsor and the requirements that must be met to apply to become a sponsor, book your confidential consultation with a migration agent in Adelaide. PAX Migration Australia is a leading immigration advice service based in Adelaide.