Migrant workers give farmers a hand

Date: Aug 08, 2011

According to the records of the National Farmers Federation, there are over 135,000 individual farms actively used in Australia today.

These horticultural enterprises can be big business, with related economic activity contributing approximately 12 per cent to the country's gross domestic product.

The nature of the work can vary tremendously between different farming concerns and sometimes land owners can find that their local population is either lacking in the required skills or the number of available workers to help them reach certain goals.

International employees are frequently used by farmers to help supplement their workforce.

As an example, the 457 visa allows employers in need of workers with specialised skills to supplement their existing labour pool by sponsoring international staff.

Issued by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, this visa has allowed over 450 skilled foreign workers access to employment in Australia's agriculture, fishing and forestry industries between July 2009 and June 2010.

Businesses that are considering the sponsorship of migrant workers to fill an existing skills gap would to well to consult with an migration lawyer.

These professionals can provide them with the experience necessary to help streamline the visa application process.

Farmers also frequently make use of international employees during peak harvest seasons when they have a large amount of produce to process within a certain period of time.

Sometimes these land owners require more workers than the local population can provide to meet such seasonal demands.

Managers in the agriculture industry are also able to access increases in labour supply by making use of international workers in possession of the 417 visa - also known as a working holiday visa.

This provision allows for international employees to gain employment in a large variety of roles within Australia, subject to a set of specific conditions and time restraints.

It is important for employers to understand the details involved in hiring migrant workers, as ignorance of the relevant laws is not a viable defence should they be breached.

Consequences for hiring international employees outside of the conditions of their visa can include fines of up to $60,000 and a two year prison sentence. The workers also may face immediate deportation and exclusion from returning to Australia.

An experienced immigration lawyer can help employers navigate the processes involved in hiring migrant workers on various terms and can recommend appropriate legal solutions to worker shortages.