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Working holiday visa changes can ease labour needs

THE use of skilled immigration programs versus the training and use of local labour is a vexed issue in all industries. The issue has become more important in recent times as a result of acute labour shortages in several prominent industries, including the building and construction industry. Although the strength of the Western Australian economy is great news, it has provided new challenges for many businesses. In the building and construction industry, one of the biggest challenges has been to source sufficient numbers of skilled workers to build the growing number of homes, commercial and industrial buildings and civil structures that clients want. In the absence of local labour being available to build these projects, skilled immigration becomes a more attractive proposition. History also confirms that skilled immigrants have made a significant contribution to the building industry, the growth of our economy and the richness of our community. Working Holiday Maker Scheme Employers will soon be able to take advantage of changes to the Working Holiday Maker (WHM) scheme, which include an increase in the maximum period of employment a working holiday maker can spend with one employer. The WHM scheme provides opportunities for eligible passport holders aged between 18 and 30 to holiday in Australia and supplement their travel through casual employment. Australia has reciprocal WHM arrangements in place with a number of countries and locations. In November 2005, the government introduced changes to the WHM visa to enable working holiday makers, who had undertaken three months’ seasonal work in Australia, to apply for a second three-month WHM visa. However, employers in the building industry will be particularly interested in the new condition that will enable WHMs to work for each employer for a maximum of six months, an increase from the previous three months. The definition of seasonal work has also been expanded, increasing the capacity to apply for a second WHM visa. The three-month work limitation is not retrospective and working holiday makers on a second WHM visa may work for former employers. The changes to the visa, including the ability to work for each employer for up to six months will be effective for people who lodge an application for a WHM visa from July 1 2006. The easiest way to check the work rights for a WHM is via the Employer Verification Online (EVO) system. To register to use the system go to http://www.immi.gov.au/e_visa/evo.htm or for further information telephone the employers’ work rights checking line on 1800 040 070. Entitlements Verification Online Many employers in the building industry rely on backpackers and students from overseas for labour at busy times throughout the year. Entitlements Verification Online (EVO) allows employers to check the work rights of prospective employees online. The process is quick, easy and free. Making sure that a prospective employee is allowed to work in Australia makes good business sense. In today’s competitive market, businesses cannot afford the disruption caused by the sudden removal of a member of staff. Checking visa labels can be confusing and some visas don’t have labels. Using EVO means checking visa labels is a thing of the past. And remember, having a tax file number doesn’t necessarily mean people from overseas can work in Australia. Only by checking with the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA) can employers be sure that the people from overseas they want to employ are allowed to work in Australia. EVO eliminates the need to keep paper records of enquiries to DIMA and employers can check several prospective employees at a time. EVO is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you don’t have access to the internet, or you can’t find a prospective employee’s details using EVO, DIMA’s toll-free fax service can provide written confirmation of a prospective employee’s work rights. To use the faxback service, complete the form Authority to Obtain Details of Work Rights Status and fax it to 1800 505 550. The form is available from the DIMA website at: www.immi.gov.au/employers/authority.doc or by calling 1800 040 070. To use EVO, employers must register online. To register, go to the website at: www.immi.gov.au/e_visa/evo.htm and follow the instructions. Users must comply with the conditions of use of EVO and most importantly, obtain the consent of the person concerned before enquiring about them.

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