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amya1234 Nov 10th, 2004 01:54 PM

Working in Australia without a Visa?
Does anyone know if it's common to "work under the table" in Australia? I will be in Adelaide for 4 months and need to decide if I should pay the hefty fee to get a 4-month work visa, even for a waitstaff job.

Neil_Oz Nov 10th, 2004 02:54 PM

No personal experience to call on, but I believe the practice is widespread, especially in the bigger cities and tourist areas. Adelaide, I don't know -employment in general is weak in South Australia. Many restaurants and cafes employ casual staff on a cash-in-hand basis as a tax dodge.

Daneille Nov 10th, 2004 04:47 PM

Without wanting to state the obvious - "working under the table" and is illegal. If you get caught you will probably be deported - you may not ever get to come back. Why not just pay the fee and do the right thing?

Jane_47 Nov 10th, 2004 05:20 PM

Two issues here, working under the table and being an illegal immigrant.
If you are an illegal immigrant the ramifications are far more sever than a local "working under the table"

Any violation of visa conditions is considered illegal immigration.

amya1234 Nov 10th, 2004 07:42 PM

I just wanted to clarify...If I didn't do the work visa, I would do a tourist visa. I wouldn't enter the country without a visa. My issue is whether to pay the hefty $700 USD for a 4-month temporary work visa, or pay a nominal $25 for a tourist visa and try to work without the work permit. I just don't have a lot of money, but need to work to support my travels. Unfortunately, Australia has an agreement with almost every country except the US to support a work/travel holiday visa. So these are my two choices. Based on that, any more advice??? It would be much appreciated!!!

Judy_in_Calgary Nov 10th, 2004 09:54 PM

I'd love to go to Australia for 4 months too, but I can't afford to do so. Actually, I wouldn't be able to go to Australia for even 4 days right now. I'm taking the delayed gratification approach to my next trip to Australia.

lizF Nov 10th, 2004 10:37 PM

Holy Moley $700US for a work Visa!!!!!
Of course the reason that Australia does not have an agreement with the USA is that the USA will not allow us to work there without a Green Card and all that jazz.
What about another way, why not find out about the "work for your board and keep" scheme for young people which I believe does not require a work Visa as its usually a Farm situation or home thing. If you look on the lonely Planet and ask on their site you will probably get more information about that than I could tell you.
I have seen back-packers do this quite often around here and I know that it is Offically accepted but the same requirement as other normal workers are not adhered to.

lizF Nov 10th, 2004 10:39 PM

P.S. If you like to do gardening then I for one would only be too happy to have someone for a weeks board and lodging in return for some work!

Neil_Oz Nov 10th, 2004 10:51 PM

Full marks for lateral thinking, Liz. amya1234, what are you like with a paint brush? There you go, you've got board & lodging in Canberra and wherever in the Deep North Liz hangs out. But be aware - a Brisbane mate of mine once explained that you can pick the recent refugees from the southern states because on the weekend they work in the garden. A true Queenslander knows that there's no point - it'll all grow back in a few days, so you might as well go fishing.

Neil_Oz Nov 10th, 2004 10:54 PM

And (possibly) my last word on this thread - Dorothy Parker's ditty about martinis:
"I love to have a martini/Two at the very most/After three I'm under the table/After four I'm under the host."

We're not big martini drinkers in Australia, though.

MikeD Nov 11th, 2004 12:50 AM

Sorry to be the devil's advocate here but you have to think of it in terms of the prospective employer's viewpoint.

Given that
a)they will be heavily fined for employing someone illegally
b) there are thousands of backpackers with valid working visas looking for the same jobs

then the only reason that they would employ you is if they can pay you a lot less than anyone else. So even if you did manage to get cash in hand work - you would probably be worse off than stumping up for the work visa , and getting paid the standard wage.

On top of all that if you get caught working illegally you will be arrested, heavily fined, put in a detention centre (and charged for the cost of staying there) then deported. It's your choice, but I know which I would choose

lizF Nov 11th, 2004 02:57 AM

then deported. It's your choice, but I know which I would choose"

Yep! that settles it then, the best thing is to come and work in my garden and hang around South East Queensland. I might even be able to pass you around long enough to make it really worth your while! Poor old Neil has been on the slops too much tonight as he sounds ' away with the fairies'. Its true that our plants grow quickly here but that's all for the better.

Judy_in_Calgary Nov 11th, 2004 07:25 AM

As long as you're into lateral thinking, there is an organisation that arranges what Neil and LizF have discussed doing informally, namely, working in return for room and board (but no money). It's called Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF), and there are chapters of it in many countries, including Australia. The people who do this sort of thing are called Woofers. Although most of the work that's available is on farms, there occasionally is work available in cities (child minding, house keeping, cooking, gardening, secretarial work, etc.). The website of the Australian chapter is:

leisa Nov 11th, 2004 08:00 AM

considering you are only staying for 4 months it would be a shame to spend most of your travel time working .

why not stay for a shorter time, or save a bit more $$ before you come so that you can afford the 4 months without resorting to working illegally.

from my experience not many employers are still willing to risk a fine by employing someone without a work visa.
and even if they do they will only pay into an Australian bank a/c ... don't think it's easy to open an account if your not aboveboard.

you may get lucky ... but i'm thinking KARMA !

Neil_Oz Nov 11th, 2004 11:53 AM

leisa, things must have changed in the few years since some young people close to me were supporting themselves through study by waiting table. Cash-in-hand payment was rife and most of their employers wouldn't have cared if they'd been Martians as long as they could do the job, were cheap and could be told to come in/not come in at short notice.

An Adelaide restaurateur was actually jailed for tax evasion some time ago - this may have had nothing to do with cash-in-hand workers but probably made a few people nervous anyway.

Also I think Doyle's seafood restaurant in Sydney was raided by the Immigration Depoartment a while back. I don't know whether any illegal workers were found, though.

"Under the table" work seems rife in the US, if my conversation with a few waiters there were any guide.

Daneille Nov 11th, 2004 02:05 PM

Neil - you are right Doyle's has been raided (I actually think it's been raided twice). And a friend of mine was getting her car washed at one of those drive in car washes and the immigration swooped in and arrested everyone in sight (those that didn't get over the back fence anyway!!) suffice to say they didn't finish her car.

It doesn't take much for an employer to be "dobbed in" - a disgruntled legal worker, or a paying customer.

Amya I suppose another word of warning would be that anyone willing to pay someone less to work illegally is going to be a very dodgy operation anyway. You would not be covered by Worker's Compensation or any sort of insurance should you be injured at work and you would have no recourse should anything untoward happen to you. To me $700 is a small price to pay to be protected in this way. Could you do some extra work at home in order to save up this extra money perhaps?

Jane_47 Nov 11th, 2004 11:42 PM


To make it crystal clear to enter the country on a tourist visa you have to be a tourist. If you work then it automatically renders that visa invalid and you are considered an illegal immigrant.

Though having a passort and also a visa means identity check has been done you may not automatically go into a detention centre but it is entirely possibly. You will be deported though and risk never being issued another visa to come back.

I know two lovers that had a spat and she reported him to immigration in a fit of rage and he spent two nights in detention. Not as bad as those without ID who spend months to years but still not a nice experience.

You can make your own choice but Australians hate the people who end up in detention whining about how unfair it is. So I only hope is that people who make a decision to work illegally here are making an informed decision.

If you do make here (legally... *winks*) hope you have great fun.

And do look up volunteer type work, it doesn't require a work visa and can add greatly to your travel experience.

Let us know if you need any more info.

alice13 Nov 12th, 2004 02:31 AM

I'm amazed that so few posters have responded to this with a message along the lines of "it's illegal". It is illegal. And why should it not be? Can anyone who wants to work in the US just do so? Don't you need to have the right visa? Why should Australia be different? I assume you are from the US - forgive me if you are not. And if you are, please give your views on people who are not American working there.

Look forward to your reply.

wilees Nov 12th, 2004 11:20 AM

the other thing to take into account is if you did get caught and "asked to leave" then you would find it difficult to EVER TRAVEL AGAIN. You certainly wouldn't be able to get any sort of visa for western countries. Not NZ, prob not Britian.

Neil_Oz Nov 12th, 2004 11:40 AM

I thought that to point out that it's illegal would be a case of stating the bleeding obvious, and amya's choice of words suggested that she already knew that. All she asked was whether it's common, and in both countries it's not only common but rife.

I assume that Jane's "...Australians hate the people who end up in detention whining about how unfair it is" was an attempt to introduce a partisan comment relating to the Australian government's treatment of applicants for refugee status. If so, she's not speaking for me, or for a lot of other Australians. It shouldn't be necessary to state that Australians don't hold a common view on anything.

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