Erring on the side of providing extra context and information can help employers minimise the time and frustration associated with heightened scrutiny of employee-sponsorship applications, according to an immigration specialist.

TSS Immigration visa services manager Michael Walker told HR Daily ahead of his upcoming webinar that in more than 16 years of working in this field, he had not experienced the current level of employer requests for assistance with the 457-visa 'genuineness' criteria.

These requests are in response to case officers increasingly asking employers why they need a specific position within their organisations, which Walker believes is a political reaction to media reports implying jobs are being taken away from local workers.

"What the politicians are trying to do is to say to the country at large, 'we're putting barriers in place and monitoring just how businesses sponsor 457-visa applicants, and we're asking them to clearly justify why they require positions to be filled'."

A well-known e-retailer in Australia, for example, is trying to appoint a sales and marketing manager with international exposure to ecommerce, with the Department of Immigration questioning why the employer needs such a position, Walker says.

"Clearly the position the case officer is coming from is the traditional paradigm of a sales and marketing manager, which they see as a more person-to-person transaction, whereas in an ecommerce business that's not the way it is," he says.

As a result, the employer drafted a business case explaining its needs, pointing out that "ecommerce doesn't know borders", and the skills it requires to maintain its competitive edge.

"It would appear to me that the Department of Immigration and case officers don't spend a great deal of time researching a particular business. In other words they won't go online and look at what this business actually does."

It's therefore vital that employers provide the Department with as much information as possible to support their applications, Walker says.

"The major gap that I see often is an assumption, and sometimes a reasonable assumption, that the departmental case officer will have enough intuition and professionalism that they'll be able to pick up the nuance of a particular application," he says.

"Making such assumptions can be fatal."

Walker says the more information employers provide to support their nomination application "the better chance that you will have of negotiating the process without getting push-back from Department of Immigration case officers".

"It's about building a business case as to why you require that person to fill the role you have in mind, and why that role can't be filled by the local labour market."

Detailed job descriptions

Employers must provide position descriptions when making nomination applications, Walker notes, and "as trivial as it may sound, it's a good idea to provide a breakdown of the percentage of time it is envisaged will be spent on each task that is listed in your position description".

This streamlines the process and allows case officers to understand exactly why the employer needs such a role within their organisation.

Another document they must provide is a signed employment contract, he says, adding that employers that are unrepresented when lodging applications tend to provide these documents and not much else.

"I try and provide a lot more information on behalf of my employer clients that tells the Department of Immigration exactly what sort of operations that employer is involved in, their place within the particular industry sector, [and] whether or not they may have new contracts with their clients," he says.

"Certainly we don't want to give away our employer's total intellectual property, but by providing the signed pages of employment contracts and the pages which name the parties to the contract, that in itself can be enough to provide a compelling business case to the Department of Immigration as to why that nomination is required."

It's also "extremely important" for approved Australian sponsoring employers to keep records to ensure they can defend their applications if the Department audits the business, Walker stresses.

"The best thing that any HR person can do if they are involved in this process is to front-end load as much information as they can, template the information as much as they can, keep it on record," and update details when needed, he says.

Register for our upcoming webinar, where Michael and his colleague John Unger will discuss the 457-visa sponsorship criteria, compliance tips and traps, special considerations when dismissing sponsored workers, and much more.