Working on a Visa

Migrants and workers on visas are often more vulnerable to exploitation. This is not okay!

Young Workers Advice Service Team avatar
Written by Young Workers Advice Service Team
Updated over a week ago

All workers are entitled to the same basic rights and protections – no matter if you are foreign or domestic worker, an international student, a seasonal worker, or a citizen or permanent resident. In order to work legally in Australia, you must have the right type of visa. 

All workers, including those who are on student visas, are entitled to the entitlements set out in the National Employment Standards. This means you are entitled to: 

  • A maximum of 38 hours of work per week, plus reasonable additional hours. 

  • Request flexible working arrangements if you require flexibility because you are a parent/carer, have a disability, are 55 or older, are experiencing violence or providing support to someone who is experiencing violence. 

  • Up to 12 months of unpaid parental leave, including for adoption. 

  • Four weeks of paid leave per year if you are a permanent employee. 

  • 10 days of paid personal/carer’s leave, two days unpaid carer’s leave, two days compassionate leave, and five days unpaid family and domestic violence leave. 

  • Unpaid leave for voluntary emergency activities, or up to 10 days paid leave for jury service. 

  • Paid leave for employees who have been with an employer for a long time (long service leave) 

  • Paid day off on a public holiday for permanent employees. 

  • Up to 5 weeks notice of termination and up to 16 weeks of redundancy pay, based on length of service. 

  • Provision of a Fair Work Information Statement. 

All employees are entitled to be paid at least the minimum wage. You can find out more about the minimum wage here

Every employee is covered by an Award or Enterprise Agreement that provides more detail about the pay and conditions they are entitled to. You can find out more about Awards and Agreements here

You should know the rules of your visa. Some visas limit the types of work you can do, or have rules about how many hours you can work.  Your employer cannot cancel your visa.  

If you believe that you have been exploited at work – such as your boss not paying you enough, or telling you to work too much – you should tell someone about what is happening so they can help.  

Your visa will not be cancelled if:  

  • You are entitled to work 

  • You have reported your circumstances 

  • You are assisting the investigation 

  • You will abide by your visa conditions in the future 

  • There is no other basis for cancellation (such as national security or fraud) 

(Fair Work Ombudsman, 2018, 'Help for visa holders and migrants', Page Reference No. 2798)


Kelvin is an international student at a university. After looking for work for a few months, he found a job at a local restaurant. Before being offered the job, he worked multiple unpaid trial shifts. He is paid in cash, does not receive a pay slip, and works almost every night. As exam period approaches, Kelvin asks if he can have some time off to study. His Manager, who owns the restaurant, tells him that he has to work whenever he is called in, otherwise he will fire him and tell the government so they will cancel his student visa.  

This is not okay. All workers must be paid properly and must be treated respectfully. This means being paid at the correct rate – including at least the minimum wage, as well as penalty rates and casual loadings. This also means receiving a pay slip which tells you how much you worked and how much you are being paid. It is against the law for your employer to pay you incorrectly. Your boss also cannot cancel your visa, or force you to work more hours that you are allowed to under your visa. 

Who can I talk to? 

If you think you are being exploited, you should get in touch with us. We can give you advice about what your entitlements are, and help you decide what to do. We can also direct you to other people who can help, such as the Fair Work Ombudsman or your union. 

To find out more about how to join your union, visit or have a look at our fact sheet here.

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