• Authorization To Be Required for Offshore Work
  • July 31, 2013
  • Law Firm: Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen Loewy LLP - New York Office
  • Australia recently enacted legislation that will require all foreign offshore workers to hold a visa granting work authorization. A new offshore worker visa will be created to accommodate the new requirement. The legislation is expected to take effect in early 2014.

    Currently, foreign nationals are not required to hold a visa to work on rigs, platforms or vessels not connected to the Australian seabed, or to work on vessels involved in pipe-laying activities. Such work is considered outside of Australia’s Migration Zone - the area in which the country’s standard immigration rules apply.

    The legislation will expand the Migration Zone to encompass most offshore work and, as a result, foreign workers on a seismic or pipe-lying vessel operating in Australian waters will require work authorization, even if the vessel is not connected to the seabed. This will apply to geophysicists conducting a seismic survey and to support staff on the vessel, such as on-board cooks, cleaners and so forth. The legislation was enacted in response to a May 2012 Federal Court decision that held certain vessels installing offshore pipelines to be outside the country's Migration Zone.

    The visa created by the legislation will be the only category available to foreign nationals seeking to work on Australian resource installations, such as oil rigs currently included in the Migration Zone, or on seismic or pipe-laying vessels. The government is expected to release details about this visa at a later date. A grace period is expected to allow employers and current foreign offshore workers to obtain the offshore worker visa once it is available.

    The new legislation will also allow the Department of Immigration, Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship and Fair Work Australia inspectors to enforce compliance with labor and immigration laws at offshore facilities, which is not possible under current law when the offshore work is conducted outside of Australia’s Migration Zone.