Alert | First Enterprise Migration Agreement approved: Opportunities for your resource project

30 May 2012

On Friday, 25 May 2012, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announced the approval of the first Enterprise Migration Agreement (EMA) for Hancock Prospecting’s Roy Hill Project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The A$9.5 billion iron ore project will create significant benefits to the Australian economy through its capital investments, export earnings, and employment and training opportunities for Australians over decades.

What does this approval mean?

The EMA allows Roy Hill to plan its workforce needs from the start and take a project-wide approach to meeting skill needs. The project will be able to sponsor up to 1,715 workers for the three-year construction phase through the 457 visa program where Australians cannot be found to fill the positions. The EMA covers occupations such as electricians, mechanical fitters, scaffolders, and boilermakers.

As part of the EMA, Roy Hill is required to provide up to 2,000 training places for Australians (apprenticeships, traineeships and job readiness programs for indigenous Australians) and invest in excess of A$20 million in training Australians in a variety of programs.

Subcontractors will be able to sponsor workers by signing up to template labour agreements that will sit under the EMA.

Why is it important?

Through EMAs, major resources projects are able to access overseas labour for genuine skilled and semi-skilled vacancies that cannot be filled from the Australian labour market.

EMAs give guaranteed access to an agreed number of visa holders that can be engaged on a major resources project.

This will be of particular value to mining companies in ensuring that skills shortages do not constrain major projects and jeopardise Australian jobs. At the same time, EMAs will create jobs and training opportunities for Australians.

EMAs also enable projects to engage overseas semi-skilled labour that would not be available through the standard Subclass 457 visa program.

Concessions to minimum requirements, such as English language ability and skills requirements, can also be negotiated as part of the agreement.

Next steps?

If you are the project owner/prime contractor of a resources project and you are interested in getting an EMA approved, you will need to make a submission to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

If you are a subcontractor on a major resource project, you may be able to sponsor workers for subclass 457 visas by signing up to the template labour agreement that sits under the EMA.

To be eligible for an EMA:

  • the resources project must have a capital expenditure of more than A$2 billion and a peak workforce of more than 1,500 workers

  • the applicant will need to provide a comprehensive training plan targeting up-skilling of Australians to meet future skills needs in the resources sector, and 

  • the applicant will need to demonstrate why sufficient Australian workers cannot be found to fill anticipated vacancies in semi-skilled occupations and a commitment to ongoing local recruitment efforts.

To be eligible to sign up to a template labour agreement, subcontractors will need to demonstrate:

  • a good record of compliance with migration and workplace laws, and 
  • training of Australian workers in-line with the project training plan and the training benchmarks commensurate with the standard 457 program.

Once the labour agreement is approved, the contractor can begin sponsoring workers on subclass 457 visas. The usual process will apply in relation to workers applying for subclass 457 visas.

Want more information?

For more information about EMAs and subclass 457 visas, please contact or for assistance.

Author(s) Megan Arends (Migration Agent Registration No 0209296)