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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.

Jane_47 Nov 12th, 2004 04:17 PM


No I said that those who think they can get away without following the law whine how unfair it is. Often these are not refugees but English, Americans etc etc and Australian who do not like it are in the majority. It is probably because of the refugee situation that some think it only applies to certain nationalities and not theirs. I think this reaction is normal considering the imbecile leftist response that immigration here is racist. It implies if you are white you not need to follow the law. Then they complain when they find themselves in immigration detention.

And no her message was clearly that she felt by entering the country with a tourist via that she considered that as legal entry to Australia. It does not. Some Amercian dancers you may recall entered Australia with tourist visa and actually told the immigration official they were going to do a show. they were all carted off to immigration without ever leaving the airport. A bit the same when Molly went to the US and did not have the appropiate visa.

It is very very much a country that is defined by border control and immigration control and it is bleeding obvious to anyone living in the real world that that this is desired by almost the totalitiy of the Australian population. Because so many are immigrant here and because they can see it does work in favour of immigrants in the long term.

Like it was mentioned illegal immigrants get bad pay but nowhere in this world do immigrants get paid as equally as they do here. Both in the US and Europe where illegal immigration is somewhat acepted there are huge disparity in pay and employment. Even social status.

So to be honest with you you can take your tired little propoganda campaign and shove where the sun don't shine. You certainly do not speak as a majority otherwise your nutcase Bob Brown would be running this country...right into the ground.

Neil_Oz Nov 12th, 2004 04:53 PM

Now, Jane, behave yourself please; as you well know, this is a forum whose standards would do credit to a vicar's tea party, and I don't want you getting us into trouble. Regular posters here will be aware of my stern opposition to anything even remotely off-topic, to say nothing of political debates, so I will maintain a dignified silence. (For the next hour or so, anyway.)

Amya, it just occurred to me that you might have more luck (and incur less disapproval) on the Lonely Planet 'Thorntree' discussion forum.

Jane_47 Nov 13th, 2004 12:05 AM


Go ahead work here illegally. Get a job as a housekeeper for $100 a week like the illegals do in the states.

Go ahead, undermine the efforts of our unions and reduce the value of labour for unskilled workers like the US has.

But there are greater than 90% Australians anti- ilegal workers, but sure you would make Neil a happy man. He has offered to exploit your labour and no doubt would love if others do the same.

Some just love the chance to get their hands on slave labour.

Jane_47 Nov 13th, 2004 12:16 AM

Checked out Neil's thorntree on your behalf.

The first suggestion for someone wanting to work without a visa was to "rent your arse out in St Kilda".

Sure Neil meant to be helpful though.

Neil_Oz Nov 13th, 2004 01:22 AM

amya, the foregoing unpleasantness is not typical of our country. Please don't be deterred from visiting Australia, whatever employment arrangements you decide to make. You can ignore the intemperate comments posted here, but take due note of the more balanced warnings.

KathyM Nov 13th, 2004 01:54 PM

If you are under 30, Australia has a "young people's visa" which does allow you to work and is quite inexpensive.

lizF Nov 14th, 2004 11:51 AM

Golly gosh! and I neally didn't read any more of this post - great stuff Jane and Neil! I am so sad that Alan is away and not here to read this he would get a buzz out of it.

"So to be honest with you you can take your tired little propoganda campaign and shove where the sun don't shine. You certainly do not speak as a majority otherwise your nutcase Bob Brown would be running this country...right into the ground"

Well said Jane! However we must point out to Amya that this was not directed at her in any way and perhaps we should explain that Neil does "dress" to the "left" as we clods up here in Queensland would say. In that respect, Neil's views differ in many ways from the majority of the population ( I can say that with authority now as we have recently had an election and the voice of the people rang loud and strong!
BUT Neil is a great Chef and has some really wonderful recipes and therefore for the first time in my life I will "talk to the political enemy" because I happen to think that some of what Neil says is really good quality stuff.
amya1234- it is NOT illegal to work in the scheme that WWOOF and for what its worth the amount of work that you do does not take away from your holiday. In respect to the idea that I had that if you came here you could certainly work for me for board and lodging, I was quite serious when I said that and for a few hours helping out for a week you get to have food, and a roof over your hear - and if I say so myself a very nice roof over your head for that matter in a very nice part of Australia - that is quite legal as well and I made that as a genuine offer.
So you have it in a nutshell - don't spoil what would be a wonderful experience by not doing the right thing. Yes we, being the majority that Neil hates, get very p.......d off at people who get into Australia and work and then get arrested and cry all the way to the detention centre. So for a few hours per week you can work - legally - for your board and lodging, which incidently is not to be sneezed at, AND you would get the chance to see more of Australia and meet Aussies in their own environment to boot. Accommodation and food is the biggest expense when you are on holiday as getting around Australia is not that expensive.
Do enjoy our country, as you have seen we do like to have differing opinions and we don't hide that fact to 'anyone'. However most of us have more bark than bite and we can behave ourselves when necessary :0)

Daneille Nov 14th, 2004 02:13 PM

Whilst I may not have voiced it in such vitriolic terms I say "hear, hear" to Jane. I agree with your sentiments exactly. Britain will ship you straight back from whence you came if they even suspect you may be turning up to work there on a tourist visa and so they should. Anyone who condones working illegally is, as Jane says, completely undermining the very fabric of what our unions have worked for over the years. And love them or hate them we have some of the best working and pay conditions in the world to show for it.

Neil_Oz Nov 14th, 2004 09:12 PM

amya, I hope you've learnt your lesson. Persist with your sinister plans for world (well, South Australian) domination and the Court of Public Opinion will hold you personally responsible for aiding and abetting the white-anting of our cherished free enterprise system, 150 years of work by the Australian trade union movement and quite possibly giving aid and comfort to Osama bin Laden. You will doubtless be interned indefinitely in Australia's own Gulag Archipelago, somewhere in the shifting sands of the South Australian desert, and subjected to personal indignities which modesty prevents me detailing. And it will be all your fault, you bad girl.

Seriously, I think everyone knows that large parts of the Australian tourist industry would be in dire straits if it were not for backpacker labour, legit and otherwise. And these people aren't doing nearly as much to subvert Australian workers' pay and conditions as Liz's lovely government, whose avowed aim is to "deregulate" the industrial relations system (to the uninitiated, code for shifting the balance of negotiating power from employees to employers).

The convenience of such a ready source of labour may be one reason why our government, a good friend of business, shows little enthusiasm for pursuing the biggest single category of immigration "illegals" - people who've overstayed their visa and conveniently happen to have white faces and speak English, even if it is with a Cockney or Mancunian accent.

Whether you do it legit or take the risk of being sprung and booted out of the country is up to you. Have a great time in Adelaide!

lizF Nov 14th, 2004 11:44 PM

Neil, you have been drinking more of your spirits than putting it in the sauces you make, hense your cockeyed perception of the system of Government of this country.
I hate to be the person who brings this bad news but the Maxist philosophy of "the workers versus Industry" went out in the 60's. If you hadn't noticed, the Australian worker under a conservative Government has shorter working hours, longer holidays, extra benefits than it has ever had under any other Government and the other, but rather huge, benefit has been the Australia is not bankrupt anymore - like it was when a certain Socialist/Marxist/dick-head was in power. As "small business" - meaning the very little people like myself who employs 1/2 a person per week makes up 87% of the business workforce, whilst big business makes up the rest one would have to say that it appears that the "little person" and not the Industrial Giant has had the biggest say in what goes on in the Government of this country. Shifting the power from the worker to Big Business was what Marx & his ilk sprooked about and
I can only assume that you are statistically challanged or a blind ostrich. Whatever turns you on Neil is fine but stick with the truth! As there is only a very small % of Australians who are "workers" in your terms what the bloody hell do you think people like myself and my husband are?

alice13 Nov 15th, 2004 02:43 AM

well maybe I should stay out of this as I'm not part of the "in" crowd, and I am not Australian to boot. But I can't. The point about the Australian tourist/ hospitality industry subsisting on the work of backpackers is indisputable. But those b/p are here legitimately on a working holiday visa - and the same industry in the UK depends heavily on the labour of Aussies and Kiwis - also there on a legit visa. A LEGIT VISA. They know (dear Jane) that they will be working at rock bottom wages; and, dear Danielle - I haven't heard a peep out of the unions about it - it is after all, legal.

There have to be rules. And this is not the place to address the question of refugees/asylum seekers. But I have to say - I just have to - that I find the right wingers on here pretty nasty. Your snide swipes at Bob Brown just show how ignorant you are. Anything for short term gain.

But please, Neil, no laughing about being caught and locked up. It wouldn't be funny if it happened to you - and the poster who advised that the best reason of all for not breaking visa conditions would be that you could never come here again hit the nail on the head.

heretoday Nov 15th, 2004 04:51 AM

Just a quick note, but a 3month tourist visa costs nothing. someone charging 25.00 is pocketing the $$

Judy_in_Calgary Nov 15th, 2004 01:32 PM

Hello Heretoday,

Some travel agents and some airlines charge nothing to apply for Electronic Travel Authorities (ETAs) on behalf of their clients. But not all travel agents and not all airlines provide the free service.

In the United States it costs nothing (at least in theory) to apply for an ETA from the Australian embassy in Washington, DC or from an Australian consulate in Atlanta, Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York City, or San Francisco.

However, one needs to pay postage and allow at least 21 days if one applies through the mail. If one applies at the embassy or one of the consulates in person, one incurs the cost of bus / train fare, gasoline and parking, or air fare, as the case may be.

One can apply online, from Australia's Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA). The ETA itself costs nothing, but there is a 20 AUD (15.50 USD) service charge, payable by credit card, for a private individual to apply through DIMIA's website:

So, for practical purposes, a private individual cannot always obtain an ETA for free, even if he/she goes directly to the source and does not use an intermediary.

LoveItaly Nov 27th, 2004 07:19 PM

Hello Neil, well I came across the pond for a visit (now that Thanksgiving is over) and see that the land of Oz has as many raging debates as we do. :-S

Just goes to prove, life is the same everywhere. Will be back for a visit later.

Neil_Oz Nov 28th, 2004 12:01 AM

Whew, LoveItaly, am I glad it's you! I saw that someone had revived this thread and started to twitch, thinking I was about to be beaten up again.

LoveItaly Nov 28th, 2004 12:17 AM

Well dear Neil, you did invite me over again, remember, so I took you up on your invitation. But didn't mean to make you twitch and shake LOL.:-"

But us Scots, even if we live elsewhere have to stick together. And no one can beat up a Scot! No matter where they live. Take good care. And if you are still twitching go have a good mug of beer, good for the nerves you know. At least dear old Dad thought so.

Peteralan Nov 28th, 2004 02:42 PM

lizf...your leader would be so proud of you! By the way I haven't noticed in any of Neil's posts that he "hates" anyone! amya...aren't you glad you asked?

Neil_Oz Nov 29th, 2004 03:02 PM

I didn't think I did either, Peteralan. Liz is normally the milk of human kindness personified, but anyone can get a little stressed, especially in Queensland, where you really need two cold showers a day. (I'm not sure which Marx she was talking about - Groucho or Harpo. I'd better get out my video of "Horse Feathers".)

LoveItaly, I'd love to have a beer, as today's forecast for Canberra is 38C/100F (Sydney, would you believe 42C/107F?). What was I saying about cold showers? Problem is, my doctor, who practiced for a while in France, put me on a red wine diet years ago. Well, I guess one wouldn't hurt...

pat_woolford Nov 29th, 2004 03:12 PM

Neil - was about to offer sympathy for today's forecasts, both Canberra and Sydney. Up here in Far North Queensland it's a comparatively balmy 31C max. Liz lives in south east Queensland - around max 33C today.

Judy_in_Calgary Nov 29th, 2004 03:20 PM

But I think Liz is AWOL in the USA, isn't she?

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