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DIAC to investigate allegations of visa misuse in WA gas project

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The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) is said to be investigating allegations that a large construction firm has been providing incorrect migration advice to its international workers.

According to the West Australian, the international employees were specifically instructed to apply for the 651 visa - meant for tourists and business personnel travelling for conferences and the like.

Reports say that the workers were instructed to say that they were planning on being in the country for less than three months - the maximum amount allowed by their chosen immigration tool - and that they were not in Australia to seek work.

Doug Heath - Maritime Union Australia organiser for The Pilbara - suggested that the use of the 651 visa in this case was more than an oversight on the behalf of the international firm that hired them.

He said that it was "ludicrous" of the company to try and infer that the international workers - crane operators and maritime construction professionals - were businessmen who were in the country to attend industry conferences.

Heath asserted: "There is a systematic rorting of visas occurring on the biggest resource construction project in Australia where workers are being brought in on incorrect visas, paid in Euros instead of Australian dollars and not paid Australian industry standard rates of pay or superannuation."

The company in charge of the gas project - Chevron Australia - has said that it expects all of the businesses and contractors under its employ to comply with the DIAC and all immigration requirements.

In addition the firm stated that it had always made the hiring of Australian workers a leading priority in its ongoing energy developments.

The contractor in question - Allseas Group - has declined to pass comment at this time, with the local contact referring reporters to the firm's parent office in Switzerland.

While the DIAC investigations into the allegations continue, this is a prime example of the importance of gaining sound advice from a qualified, registered migration professional.

Failure to do so can have far-reaching consequences, as the department can impose severe fines and penalties on the companies and directors it finds to be in breach of immigration laws - including up to two years imprisonment.

When correctly utilised, immigration visas can be of great benefit to a business, its local employees and the community as a whole.

Employees can learn new skills from their foreign counterparts, there is increased cash flow into the domestic economy and the company is able to continue operations where it may have had to halt a project previously.

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