Interview with Justin Wilson, Immigration Specialist

Episode 3 is brought to you by Calhaem Wilson & Co, Australian Immigration Specialists. Justin Wilson outlines what you need to know to sponsor an overseas trained therapist.

Calhaem, Wilson & Co

Speaker You’re listening to Allied Health Podcast, talking all things Allied Health with your hosts, Danielle Weedon, physiotherapist and Clare Jones, occupational therapist.

Clare Jones Today’s episode of Allied Health Podcast is brought to you by Calhaem Wilson and Co Australian immigration specialists. We chat with Justin Wilson, who outlines what’s involved in sponsoring an overseas trained therapist to work in Australia. Justin, welcome to Allied Health Podcast.

Justin Wilson Thanks Clare and Danielle, nice to be here.

Clare Jones Thanks so much for joining us.

Danielle Weedon Yeah, thank you. So with such a shortage of allied health therapists Australia wide, more and more of our clients and employers are looking at the option of attracting overseas trained therapists, in particular UK, Canadian and South African trained OTs, Speechies and Physios. And with this comes the need to sponsor these therapists to work here.

Clare Jones So if you don’t mind, Justin, we’d love to pick your brain for the next 20-25 minutes or so, on everything sponsorship. Before we get started, are you happy to outline the role of migration specialist?

Justin Wilson Sure. Well, to assist somebody with either the visa process or the nomination process, you either need to be a registered migration agent or a solicitor, and that legally permits you to assist in going through the overall process, which involves outlining to a client whether it’s again the applicant or the sponsor, what their obligations are and what the requirements to proceed through from start to finish successfully. It varies according to every occupation, every country somebody comes from and the type of visa you want to sponsor somebody for. There are a host of employer sponsored visas, but the ones that are probably most relevant to your workplace are the 482 employer sponsored visa that often transitions to permanent residence and it’s an attractive way to encourage somebody to come in the first place if they can expect to go through the process and become a permanent resident if that’s what they want. There are regional sponsored bases which is a 494, which have slightly varied requirements and perhaps a little bit easier for a regional employer to go through. But with, again, specific, particular regional certifying body criteria that would need to be fulfilled. So our roles is just trying to explain to people specifically what they need to do to, to bring in applicants successfully.

Clare Jones Okay. So if we go back to basics, if we take the scenario of an employer that’s looking to an employ a speechie, OT or physio, say from the UK or Canada or South Africa, we’ve put together roughly ten questions, so if we can just work our way through those, that would be great. So as an employer, how can I employ a speechie, OT or physio who doesn’t hold entitlement to work in Australia?

Justin Wilson Well first of all, you need to apply to the Department of Immigration to be approved as an employer sponsor. And if we just narrowly target the 482 employer sponsored temporary working visa, which is 4 year visa or up to four years, the first step in the process is an employer applies to be approved as a standard business sponsor with the Department of Immigration. That’s a process they only need to go through once every five years. And really, it’s just based on financials, business being viable and it’s a relatively straightforward process.

Clare Jones And how long does that process take?

Justin Wilson I would say on average, 2 to 3 months. I guess, again, because of COVID, it’s jumped around all over the place there. There are two types of employer sponsorships. One is accredited and one is a standard business sponsor. And you need to meet unique criteria to be accredited. But the benefit of being an accredited employer sponsor is basically your nomination applications are approved within days rather than, again, talking about timeframes, you know, perhaps four months if we’re a standard business sponsor.

Danielle Weedon And from an employer perspective, does it make a difference if they’re based metropolitan, regional or rural in Australia?

Justin Wilson Not for a 482, so the regulations are exactly the same. They’re lodged through a department portal and the processing times don’t really vary too much because no regional authorities are involved in that particular process. You can certainly put in submissions to argue for a shortened period of processing but it’s difficult to have that happen. A standard business sponsorship might take two months, your nomination might take another 3 to 4 months, you would be preparing the nomination while you are undertaking the standard business sponsorship and then the nomination, unless somebody comes from a country like Canada where there’s an international trade agreement, which requires the job to be advertised for months before you’re able to launch a nomination application. So the normal process would be, while the standard business sponsorship was being processed you’d also be advertising the job.

Clare Jones So what do you say you’ve gained, you’ve registered to sponsor someone?

Justin Wilson So there’s three steps. So step one is your standard business sponsor as a general comment, that’s quick and easy and that’s done, that’s out of the way. Step two is you apply for the position to be approved as a nominator. That means every time you want to employ a physio, speechie or OT, you need to basically provide a position description, employment contract, an argument that you have a genuine need to fill somebody in the position, and then you put that into the Department of Immigration as a nomination application, and then that is step two. And then separate to that, step three is the actual visa application, which is not really about the employer it’s all about the employee having the skills to do the job here.

Clare Jones Right. And so step two and step three, what are the timeframes around those two steps? And I’m betting that you’re going to say it largely based on how efficient or dependent the therapist and the employer are.

Justin Wilson Part of our role is when you lodge an application, you’re encouraged to make a decision ready. So as the nominator, that means putting together all of that relevant paperwork and then that might again be a three month process. You can choose to do the nomination and the visa application to shorten processing timeframes with the downside of that approach being, if the nomination is refused, the visa has to be refused and then you’ve wasted the visa application fee.

Danielle Weedon Clare asked it briefly, but in general if I’m an OT therapy practice owner and want to go through this process, I’d probably be looking at least six months to get somebody out here.

Justin Wilson Yeah what we find is a lot of the people are already here on working holiday visas and then they transition from the working holiday visa through to one of these other visas. Whereas if they’re coming from offshore, then you have to be aware both as the nominee and the nominator, that is potentially in that 4-6 month pool. Now, if you were to go to OT website for the Skills Assessing Authority, and they’ve currently got a link saying that the department is prioritizing applications in that particular area. So, the department is recognizing that there are shortages and the expectation is that that will flow through to how quickly these applications are processed. But the reality is you still have to provide police clearances, you still have to do medicals and these are all steps that in and of themselves don’t take a long time. But overall, you might be looking at a six month process.

Clare Jones So what costs are involved Justin?

Justin Wilson So the sponsorship fee is not expensive. So that’s step one. So that’s $420. And then that’s gone and you’ve paid that for the five year block. The nomination fee isn’t too expensive either, it’s $330 to lodge a nomination each time you want to nominate a physician. But then what you have to do is you have to pay what’s called a Skilling Australia Fund levy. And so in the old days, if any of your clients have been sponsoring people, you just showed you had a history of training Australian permanent residents and citizens and you didn’t have to pay a levy. The Department of Immigration have changed that so now every time you sponsor somebody, you basically have to pay a levy of 1200 dollars per year that you sponsor somebody for. So normally you wouldn’t want to go through this process more than once, so you would sponsor somebody for four years. So normally that would mean your paying a 4800 dollar sponsorship levy. And so and those costs have to be borne by the employer, they can’t be passed on to the visa applicants. And then beyond those nomination costs, which let’s pretend that all adds up to about five and a half thousand dollars, the visa costs $2,690 for the visa applicant, double that if they’ve got a spouse and add more money if they’ve got children. So it’s not a cheap exercise. And, you know, on average, it’s probably close to a $10,000 process.

Danielle Weedon That’s interesting. And you’ve just said as well that you can’t ask the nominated person to pay or share in the costs of the sponsorship.

Justin Wilson Correct. Correct. So they can pay for the visa component of the application, but they cannot pay for the nomination or the sponsorship component.

Clare Jones And Justin, what was that what was that visa component for the therapist?

Justin Wilson Basically $2,700.

Clare Jones Right. Okay. So you can’t write into a contract, or can you write into a contract that they need to repay you a certain sum of money, even if they don’t see out the first 12 months?

Justin Wilson And you literally put in a declaration to say that you haven’t done that. And if somebody was to do that as a separate employment contract, normally if anything goes pair shaped, and that finishes up with Fairwork, it’s no good for anyone. So no, that’s not a pathway to go down. What people often do is I don’t know, you know, you might pay somebody $5,000 less per annum if that’s going to affect that. But you are supposed to be paying people market wage. So you’ve got to be saying the I’m paying the overseas employee exactly the same as I am or would be paying the Australian employee.

Danielle Weedon What restrictions are placed on the employee once they’ve been sponsored?

Justin Wilson They have what’s called an 8107 condition on their visa, which means they can’t work for anyone else, so they can’t do a part time job on the weekend. And you can’t, if you have a downturn in your work, you can’t say yes you can go and work somewhere else. You have to basically work for the person or the organization, the ABN, that sponsorship.

Danielle Weedon And so they can’t move to another role unless they’re sponsored by another employer?

Justin Wilson Correct. And they can’t move until the other employer’s nomination application is successful. So, if somebody you sponsored arrived here on their visa and then decided that the grass was greener somewhere else, they can ask the other employee to sponsor them. And that probably wouldn’t be information that they would share with you, but they can’t move to the other employer until that separate nomination is approved.

Clare Jones This probably isn’t in your domain, Justin. But what do you do if an employee that you’ve sponsored isn’t performing in the role? Can you terminate their employment?

Justin Wilson Yes. Your contract will be the same as any other acceptable employment contract. And what you do, is you sign up to undertake certain sponsorship obligations in the case that let’s pretend you did sack someone, you are potentially liable for the cost of their return to their home country. Now, I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and in that time, we have had one of those scenarios come up.

Clare Jones And the employer did have to pay for their return?

Justin Wilson Yeah so it cost them basically the cheapest flight to the nearest port in the person’s country of passport. So it might, you know, so it might be an additional cost of $1,000. But it’s unlikely to happen because if somebody wasn’t performing, they would still probably want to stay in Australia so that they might apply for another job. So they might be out here and might get married and then be sponsored for a partner visa or do something along those lines. So it’s very unlikely that they would go through that process. But you sign up to sponsorship obligations.

Clare Jones Is there an option to go through this process of sponsoring someone without using the services of a migration or immigration specialist?

Justin Wilson Absolutely, the law would require me to say under no circumstances are you obligated to use somebody to assist you. It’s a decision that a business makes, that it’s in the same way that you might decide to use a tax agent or an accountant, rather that do your own tax return. You might decide to use a conveyancer rather than doing conveyancing when you purchase property. It’s quite unique knowledge. So it’s something that most employers wouldn’t want to spend the time required and deal with the paperwork required to bury themselves in all of that. So yes, that’s why we are used for these sorts of things.

Clare Jones Yeah. If I was a busy practice owner, I would be looking to outsource it.

Justin Wilson Dealing with the department is a time consuming process. And there are also expensive mistakes. So when you nominate somebody for a visa, you have to advertise that position for 28 days in three particular publications with particular wording. And, you know, one of the most common pitfalls we say are those nominations are refused because they are either one of the three sites used were not acceptable, the salary or the employer details were not provided and that means you’ve lost the nomination for a 4800 plus the 540. And if you’ve lodged the visa application as well for it for a couple, that’s another five and a half thousand. So that’s a ten and a half thousand dollar mistake. And quite a bit of work that we do is when somebody has done this themselves and made a simple error and then one day later they get a refusal and no refund.

Clare Jones So it can be a really costly exercise when simple mistakes are made.

Justin Wilson Yeah. And you’ve also got to make sure that your applicant has the required skills to be approved. So part of it is making sure that they have the limited registration or they have the other certifications required to be able to practice. Here in the countries that we’re talking about, generally, there are reciprocal agreements. So having that registration here is not so not so complex, but they have to have that. They have to have two years work experience in their field in order to be able to be sponsored. So you can make the mistake of employing a great graduate who’s got six months post qualification experience because you need someone, but they’re not able to be sponsored. And sometimes you don’t find that out until too late. So it’s just understanding the basics of what’s involved through the process.

Clare Jones Just in your company is Calhaem Wilson & Co.

Justin Wilson That’s right, yes.

Clare Jones How long have you been doing this for?

Justin Wilson Well my registration number is 93, which means 1993 and I was doing it for some time before that as well.

Danielle Weedon So almost 30 years.

Justin Wilson Yeah, at least.

Clare Jones And if, if someone’s wanting to get in contact with you to discuss sponsorship further, how would they do that?

Justin Wilson Give us a call at the office which is 96021720 or my email address is Our website is And so that’s just the first port of call. And then what we normally ask for is somebody to provide us with the resumé of the potential applicant so we can make a comment as to whether or not we think that’s likely to be successful and also provide us with an idea as to what they’re sponsoring under. Given the fields that we’re talking about, the position descriptions are going to be normally pretty consistent in terms of what a speech pathologist would do or an OT will do. But they might be different if they’re in, I guess, a hospital environment or private practice or in a multi area clinic or whatever the case may be.

Clare Jones So your first step in the process is actually analysing, assessing the CV of the therapist?

Justin Wilson Just making sure that we think the application has potential for success. And that involves both the nomination side and the visa side. And when you do the nomination, you have to put in the visa applicant details so you can’t nominate one person and then decide somebody else is better or more appropriate and use that nomination approval on a different person. So, you have to establish from beginning to finish that it’s likely to work before you go through the process. And that’s normally, you know, a 30-minute conversation or a few emails with something to understand what circumstances are.

Clare Jones Fantastic. Justin, thank you so much for your time. This is very topical within Allied Health at the moment. As Danielle mentioned, there’s huge shortages of Allied Health professionals in Australia at the moment, so thank you so much for your time. The information you provide has been really valuable.

Justin Wilson Great. You’re welcome.

Clare Jones Thanks Justin.

Justin Wilson Okay. Bye bye.

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