Right To Work: Proving You Are Entitled To Work In Australia

Right To Work: Proving You Are Entitled To Work In Australia

Australia welcomes thousands of visitors every year from countries across the world. Many arrive on a short-term basis for holidays and tourist purposes while others choose to stay more permanently. There is a large number of foreign nationals living and working in Australia, whether for a work placement, student and training purposes, or to begin a new life. In these cases, the individual will likely need to find work to support themselves. This is where the right to work is required.

Not everybody is eligible to work in Australia, and not every visa makes a person eligible for work. Whatever the purpose, each person who seeks work must apply for the appropriate visa.

There are lots of visas available to overseas job seekers, and getting the appropriate one is crucial. Not only will it allow you to find work in the industry of your choice, but it will secure the number of hours you are able to work, the type of work you can do, and the period of time that you are able to stay there.

What Does Right to Work Mean?

Right to work is a legal requirement for obtaining employment in Australia. By law, you must provide evidence of your right to work in order to work without breaking the law. Evidence of your right to work is usually provided by identity documents such as a visa, an Australian or New Zealand passport, Australian birth certificate, Australian citizenship certificate or confirmation of your permanent resident status.

Every person working in Australia, regardless of the state or territory, must qualify for the right to work, and must be able to show proof that they are entitled to work there.

How Do I Prove I Am Entitled to Work?

To prove your right to work in Australia, you must provide evidence of your entitlement. Evidence can be provided in the form of documents which verify your identity, as well as your right to work status. Identity documents can include the following:

  • Visa
  • Permanent resident status
  • Australian passport
  • New Zealand passport
  • Australian birth certificate
  • Australian citizenship certificate

Most foreign nationals will require a visa in order to live and work in Australia. There are many visas available, each one with a different purpose, different conditions and different eligibility criteria. The visa that you require is highly dependent on your personal circumstances, and you should make sure that you apply for the correct, and most suitable one for your needs.

How Do I Know If I Am Entitled to Work in Australia?

To work legally in Australia as a non-Australian citizen or foreign national, you must have the right visa. If you are unsure about the limitations of your visa, you can find the information with VEVO. VEVO will confirm the expiry date of your visa, and any conditions which apply to you being able to work.

A Right to Work Check will confirm that you are entitled to work under Australian laws. Some employers will request this type of check before allowing you to start work.

Before applying for any visa, you should do your research. The visa needs to be obtained while you are still at home, as you will not be able to enter Australia otherwise. Find the one that works best for you. For instance, a Working Holiday Visa is a great option for young people aged 18-30 who want to extend their holiday while earning money to support their stay. Explore visa options here.

Types of Visa

There is a long list of visa types available for Australia. The full list can be found here.

Types of visa fall into the following categories:

  • Visitor visas
  • Studying and training visas
  • Family and partner visas
  • Working and skilled visas
  • Refugee and humanitarian visas
  • Other visas
  • Repealed visas

Before applying for a visa, you should check the conditions carefully.

Which Visa Do I Need?

Eligible job seekers from overseas need an appropriate visa. The type of visa you require is dependent on the length of time you plan to stay and the type of work that you will be doing.

To obtain a visa, you may need to provide details of your financial situation, have certain qualifications or a particular skill set, and generally you must meet the English language requirements. Use the visa finder page on the Department of Home Affairs website to find the most suitable visa for you.

What Do I Need to Work in Australia?

For all foreign nationals looking to travel to Australia to live and work, it is essential that you have the right visa to do so. The visa needs to match the type of work you plan to do.

You also need to meet the criteria to be eligible for work in Australia. For work visas, you may be able to get one if you are one of the following:

  • A skilled worker
  • A highly specialised worker
  • A business person
  • An investor
  • A trainee

Work Restrictions

Restrictions apply to certain work in Australia. Only Australian citizens, New Zealand citizens and permanent residents  who have a special category visa are able to work freely without limitations.

Certain visas can limit the jobs available to you, the type of work you can do, and the number of hours you can legally work.

If you are already a visa holder, you can check the conditions by visiting the website of the Department of Home Affairs and using VEVO online or the myVEVO app.

What is VEVO?

VEVO stands for Visa Entitlement Verification Online. It is a service which allows people to check the details and terms of their visa, whether a visa holder, an employer or other organisation. According to the website, VEVO contains the following information for visas:

  • The expiry date
  • The must not arrive after date
  • The amount of time you can stay
  • The conditions i.e. what you can and can’t do

Details can only be found for visas which are ‘in-effect’. This refers to the status of your visa. ‘In-effect’ means that the visa has started, but it will only activate when you enter Australia.

It’s important to note that australian citizens have unlimited rights to work in Australia, and a VEVO cannot be used to verify this. Instead, citizens should provide an Australian citizenship certificate or Australian passport where proof is required.

Right To Work Checks

An Australian Right to Work Check protects companies from hiring individuals who are not eligible to work in Australia. An employer will face consequences if they allow an individual to work without the correct work entitlements. It could result in infringements or civil penalties, and this applies even in cases where the employer was unaware of the illegal employee.

Employers should take steps to ensure employees are eligible to work in Australia, and that they are not allowing people to work illegally or in breach of their visa conditions. All non-citizens should be declared legal for work before beginning any job.

A Right to Work Check protects the worker too. Legal work helps to ensure that the individual is entitled to minimum wage and salaries, good working conditions and fair treatment.

Is a Right to Work Check Different From a National Police Check?

Yes, a Right to Work Check and a National Police Check are two different things, although they are sometimes applied for and used together.

A police check is a criminal history check of an individual. It is often used for work purposes, and may show a person’s eligibility to work in a particular industry, or place restrictions on where and who they can work with. For instance, a person cannot work with children if they have a child-related offence on their criminal record.

A Right to Work Check covers employers from hiring illegal workers. A VEVO check verifies if an individual is entitled to work legally in Australia. This applies to non-Australian citizens, foreign nationals and visas which are limited, such as temporary work visas.

Who Can Legally Work in Australia?

To work legally in Australia, you must be one of the following, or meet the following criteria:

  • You are an Australian or New Zealand citizen
  • You are an Australian permanent resident
  • You have the correct visa to permit you to do particular work under certain conditions


Without a valid visa, you are not permitted to work in Australia. Doing so is illegal, and this also applies in cases where the visa you hold has expired or been cancelled for any purpose.

What Happens If I Am Caught Working Illegally?

Working without permission, or breaching the terms of your visa is a serious offence in Australia. If you are caught working illegally, even accidentally (for example, if your visa has expired) you could be fined up to $10,000. You may be removed from Australia, and in some cases banned from re-entering.

An employer or organisation found to be employing illegal workers will face criminal fines, and may be charged with a criminal offence that could result in a prison term.

There are many opportunities for people to work safely and legally in Australia. Illegal work is not worth the risk, for either party.

As An Employer, How Do I Know If My Employees Are Legal Workers?

For employers to ensure their employees, or potential new employees comply with Australian visa laws, they can perform a Right to Work Check. It is best to perform VEVO checks before an employee begins work. This way, you can rest assured knowing you have followed reasonable steps to screen workers.

If a prospective employee is an Australian citizen, New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident of Australia, they will not require a VEVO report, but their identity should still be verified through ID documentation to prove who they are, and that they are eligible for the particular job.

In some industries, a criminal background check may be required.

What Are My Rights Once Working in Australia?

In Australia, every worker has the same rights no matter where they come from, what visa they have or which state or territory they are working in. Protection laws are in place to prevent exploitation, and to ensure that every person employed is entitled to basic rights, including the right to minimum wage, the right to work in a safe environment and the right to be treated fairly and without discrimination.

What Are Signs of Exploitation?

Workplace exploitation can come in many forms. Visa holders should be aware of signs of exploitation in the workplace. More information can be found on the Department of Home Affairs website, but examples of exploitation include:

  • Threats to cancel your visa (only the Department of Home Affairs can cancel visas)
  • Withholding your passport
  • Unfair deductions to wages
  • Underpaid wages
  • Unpaid training

Workplace exploitation should be reported, and help can be sought from the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO).

Where Can I Find Out More About the Right to Work?

Overseas workers can find information and advice from the Department of Home Affairs website. There is extensive information about employment laws, types of visa, workers rights and more.

For more information about a National Police Check for employment screening, visit the Crime Check Australia FAQ section.