The Hitchhikers Immigration Guide to Remote Working in Australia
By Mihan (Adnan) Hannan, Immigration Lawyer in Australia
In the words of the sagely Seekers, “the world is a ’Turnin’”. Long distance communication is simpler, cheaper and more accessible than ever before. The home telephone is a’Dyin’ and video conferencing is so vanilla. Truly, Sci-Fi channel style communication through Virtual Reality (VR) is just over the horizon. According to Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, “VR takes all the gadgets away, it takes all the multitasking away and you actually feel like you’re with someone. We call this social presence — you see their emotions, you see their gestures and it feels just like you’re in the room with them. It takes what is typically seen as something that’s unemotional and distant and makes it feel like somebody’s right there with you.” A world where you can be in your underwear, pitching a critical project to Senior Execs is almost in our grasp.
Future of Work in Australia
It’s not surprising that the world’s workforce is becoming more mobile. “People joining the workforce now have a different mindset from the past,” says Andrew Brushfield, Director, Victoria and Western Australia at Robert Half. “People are looking for experiences and growth, and the need for stability is not so ingrained.”
Usually, the slow moving juggernaut of immigration bureaucracy (globally, not just in Australia) is tardy when it comes to keeping pace with today’s nimble footed employees.
We look at the visa limitations for remote work (defined in this piece as a situation in which an employee works mainly from home and communicates with the company by email and telephone) for non-Citizens in Australia.
Employer sponsored visas
Firstly, employer sponsored visas are for formal transfers of employees and not detailed in this article. If this is of interest to you, feel free to watch a fantastic video of our charismatic Partner Jordan Tew discuss this here.
Visitor Visas / eVisitor / ETAs
For short term travel, the broader category of Visitor visas are generally the simplest visas to obtain to Australia. If you hold a passport from an ETA eligible or eVisitor eligible country, these visas can usually be granted in less than 1 day, and are valid for 12 months, have multi-entry facilities, and permit 3 month stay periods. Other passport holders can still apply for Visitor Subclass 600 visas, though they take more paper work and can be difficult to obtain as you must evidence that you are a “genuine temporary entrant”.
All of these visas are granted with Condition 8101 which states that “the holder must not engage in work in Australia”. Work also defined broadly to mean an activity that, in Australia, normally attracts remuneration.
Working remotely can still be work that would normally attract remuneration. Fortunately, the Department has a key piece of policy under the heading “Online work” (their term for what we call simply remote work): “Applicants wishing to work online (for example, stockbroker wanting to check emails, share prices etc. online) may apply for a Tourist stream visa if the online work is incidental to a holiday. If the applicant is holidaying in Australia for a short period, and just wishes to keep on top of work back home (that is, the online work is incidental to their trip), this is not of concern in terms of condition 8101. An applicant who wishes to continue their overseas work online, basically full-time may be of concern in terms of the genuine temporary stay requirement and should be considered carefully. But generally, such persons are also unlikely to be in breach of condition 8101 and are unlikely to be taking a job away from an Australian.”
What this means in simple terms:
You can work remotely for a foreign employer (not operating in Australia) if you are travelling to Australia for genuine visitor purposes and want to keep track of work via online means. You can also work remotely for a foreign employer (not operating in Australia) in a full time role through online means as long as you only intend to reside in Australia temporarily.
So, what’s the cost (as of writing)?
A Visitor visa application has a lodgement fee of $140 (if outside Australia). An ETA application has a service fee of $20. An eVisitor application has no lodgement fee.
Working Holiday Visas
The Working Holiday visa and the Work and Holiday visa lets eligible passport holders who are usually between 18 to 30-years old (inclusive) have an extended holiday in Australia and work here to help fund their trip.
These visas are granted with Condition 8547, which usually restricts a visa holder to 6 months of employment with any one employer whilst in Australia. Fortunately, immigration policy notes: “The employment limitation applies only to businesses operating in Australia. Australia regulates the rights of non-residents to work for companies operating in Australia. TZ-417 and US-462 visa holders may be allowed to work for a foreign business not operating in Australia. The work should be considered on a case-by-case basis, but could include online jobs and journalism. However, work for a foreign business for which the applicant must obtain a licence or registration to perform in Australia would be subject to condition 8547.”
What this means in simple terms:
You can work remotely full time for a foreign employer (not operating in Australia) whilst in Australia for the validity period of your visa without restriction, so long as you are not required to obtain a licence or registration to perform that work.
So, what’s the cost (as of writing)?
Both the Working Holiday and Work and Holiday visa applications have a lodgement fee of $450.
The above are not the only visa options for people seeking to work remotely in Australia. Australia is always looking to bring in skilled talent and there are a number of visas (both temporary and permanent) for skilled individuals looking to relocate to Australia (particularly regional Australia). These visas usually have unlimited work rights which mean they also permit work for an Australian company. Reach out to us directly to consider alternative visa options.
The above is general information only, and your specific situation may require a more thorough advice. If you have any questions about the above visas, or Australian immigration more generally, feel free to get in touch with us. As the world keeps a’Turnin’, so do we.
Learn More About Australian Visas and How We Can Help
Formerly a Senior Associate in one of Australia’s most reputable immigration litigation and review practices, Mihan is solutions focused and well versed in all aspects of Australian immigration law.
To further discuss remote working in Australia, or other matters related to living in Australia, reach out to Mihan and request a consultation.
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