“Sponsoring Greek employees from overseas has been one of the best business decisions I’ve made,” said restaurant owner, Apostolis Nikolopoulos to Neos Kosmos.
As the owner of two restaurants in Sydney, Nikolopoulos successfully sponsored a restaurant manager from Athens and a pastry cook from Thessaloniki under Australia’s temporary work visa program.
“There is an enormous demand for professionals in the hospitality industry if we want to compete at an international level,” said Nikolopoulos, “my Greek employees have impressive skills and training gained from working in the highly competitive tourist culture in Greece and my business has benefited from their knowledge.”
An overseas Greek employee can add more than just their European skill set to a small-to-medium Australian business: the advantages are not just financial. For Dimitra (surname withheld) – whose mother is in a nursing home in Melbourne – the cultural advantages can be significant.
“The nursing home is looking into sponsoring two aged care nurses from Greece,” explains Dimitra. “If my mother was cared for by nurses who speak her language it would be ideal. It’s the deep tie to her past with a shared common language that could make a difference in her day-to-day care.” For elderly Greeks the sharing of their most cherished cultural traditions and values plays an important role in their health care.
The Temporary Business Long Stay visa called a subclass 457 is a visa designed for employers to sponsor overseas employees to work in Australia on a temporary visa for up to four years.
The application process involves three parts. First the employer applies to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) to become a standard business sponsor and at the same time nominates the occupation that needs to be filled. Once the sponsorship is approved by DIAC, the overseas employee can apply for his or her temporary work visa. A successful business sponsorship needs to meet a number of conditions. A key requirement is that the business has a training program for their Australian employees that meet the training benchmarks set by DIAC. These benchmarks give a business the option of either contributing at least two per cent of their payroll to an approved industry training fund or on per cent of their payroll in providing training to their employees.
“Meeting the training requirement wasn’t difficult for us,” said Apostolis Nikolopoulos, “our restaurants already had apprentice chefs and a trainee program for our kitchen staff, so it was just a matter of putting together the paperwork.” The nomination part of a business sponsorship is the occupation or job that needs to be filled and there is a broad list of occupations that are included in this visa.
Teachers, engineers, IT specialists, managers, nurses and other health occupations are part of the list. In the trades area, motor mechanics, plasterers, welders, carpenters and plumbers are just a few of the occupations that can be nominated.
“As a restaurateur, I was able to choose pastry cooks, chefs, cooks or even a baker from the nominations list,” said Nikolopoulos, “we recruited our restaurant manager from Athens, and he’d also worked in Switzerland. It gives us a huge competitive advantage to have someone with European training managing our restaurants.” As well as providing numerous advantages for employers by being able to recruit Greek professionals for their business, the temporary work visa provides safeguards for their sponsored employees.
An employer is obliged to pay Australian market salary rates to their employees. DIAC refers to this as the TISMIT or Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold. The TSMIT is currently set at $49,330. “I think we will be very fortunate to be able to have nurses working here from Greece,” said Dimitra, “it’s not the business side I’m interested in. How can you compare the emotional connection and comfort I know my mother would feel being able to talk in her own language to her nurses. To have that shared cultural empathy is beyond words.”
A Greek sponsored employee, once the business sponsorship and nomination are approved, needs to show that they have the skills, qualifications, experience and an employment background which matches those required for the position as part of their temporary work visa application. A requirement for this visa is English language skills. DIAC will ask for a level of English language proficiency that is equivalent to an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test score of at least five in each of the four test components of speaking, reading, writing and listening. In some occupations a higher level of English may be required because it forms part of that occupation’s registration or licensing requirement.
“It’s a competitive market place out there,” said Apostolis Nikolopoulos, “to survive a business needs the best employees it can find. The employees I’ve recruited from Greece support my business and have given me some great ideas on how to improve things. I call it my business advantage.” More information and requirements about the Temporary Business Long Stay visa (subclass 457) for both employers and employees can be found on the DIAC Department of Immigration and Australian Citizenship website: http://www.immi.gov.au/
Jelena Togias can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org