The Commonwealth Parliament has passed the Migration Amendment (Charging for a Migration Outcome) Bill 2015, which will outlaw sponsors being paid by visa applicants for a migration outcome. The Bill will introduce new criminal and civil penalties for sponsors and third parties who ask for, receive, offer or provide a benefit for a sponsorship related event. The Bill was introduced on September 16 this year (2015), passed the House of Representatives on November 10 and the Senate yesterday (November 25). The Bill was supported by independent Senators Glenn Lazarus, Dio Wang, Jackie Lambie, Ricky Muir and John Madigan in the Senate.
Introducing the Bill in the House of Representatives, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, said:
“‘Payment for visas’ conduct is not currently unlawful. This conduct is unacceptable to the government and the Australian people because it undermines the genuine purposes for which visas are intended to be granted. This bill will strengthen the integrity of Australia's migration program by allowing action to be taken where ‘payment for visas’ conduct has occurred.”
In a media release, Mr Dutton also said:
“It is not acceptable for anyone to make a personal gain from selling visa sponsorship and it is not acceptable for a foreign worker to become an Australian permanent resident or be granted a work visa for Australia by paying an employer for their visa.
Not only does paying a sponsor for a visa undermine Australian workplace law, but applicants who have paid for their visa are also known to be more vulnerable to exploitation and extortion by their sponsor.”
The Bill, which amends the Migration Act 1958 (Cth), also gives the Minister power to cancel a visa if they are satisfied that certain types of benefits were involved in a sponsorship-related event. According to the second reading speech, this discretionary cancellation power will cover visas granted at any time, as long as the “payment for visas” conduct occurs on or after the commencement date. People will be able to seek merits or judicial review of a cancellation under this section.
“Benefits” for the purposes of the amendments will be not be limited to monetary payments and include deductions of amounts, real or personal property and anything deemed to be an “advantage”.
Criminal penalties of up to 2 years or up to 360 penalty units ($64,800 for an individual, $324,000 for a corporation) will apply if a person asks for or receives a benefit from another person in return for the occurrence of a listed sponsorship-related event, unless the benefit is “a payment of a reasonable amount for a professional service”. They could also be subject to a civil penalty of up to 240 penalty units ($43,200 for an individual, $216,000 for a corporation).
The civil penalty of up to 240 penalty units will also apply to a person who offers to provide or provides a benefit to another person in return for the occurrence of a listed sponsorship-related event.
Mr Dutton also mentioned in his second reading speech that he intends to later expand the scheme to family and other kinds of visas.
The Bill is currently awaiting assent.
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Migration Amendment (Charging for a Migration Outcome) Bill 2015 - Explanatory Memorandum & Second Reading Speeches, available from TimeBase's LawOne Service
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