Designated Area Migration Agreements for overseas workers in regional areas

3 minute read  12.09.2022 Taya Hunt

Skill shortages and the use of the migration program was a key topic of discussion at the federal Jobs and Skills Summit. How can the DAMA program help?

Australia's labour market is continuing to face critical labour shortages across a range of industries. Regional areas in particular are continuing to experience challenges attracting and retaining skilled workers.

Addressing skill shortages and use of the migration program was a key topic of discussion at the federal Jobs and Skills Summit. While there are adjustments being made to migration settings and visa options for bringing in skilled overseas workers, it may be some time before some of these changes are determined and implemented.

In the meantime, employers should consider what additional options are currently available to enable practical migration solutions to current labour shortages.

Designated Area Migration Agreement program's benefits

One option for employers based in regional areas is the Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) program, both in rural areas and regional centres and cities. A DAMA is an agreement between the Australian government and a regional, state or territory authority to provide access to overseas workers in skill shortage occupations within that area. Employers within that area can then negotiate a labour agreement within the settings of the head agreement, which provides flexibility for regions to respond to their unique economic and labour market conditions.

Depending on the terms of each DAMA, these labour agreements can provide a number of key benefits for business including:

A wider range of occupations that may be nominated;

Permanent residency pathways; and

Concessions on English language, work experience, salary and other criteria for certain occupations.

The Department of Home Affairs has recently signed several new DAMAs in different regions of Australia, particularly in Western Australia.

There are currently 12 DAMAs in place that employers can utilise across the below regions. Businesses operating in these regions may be eligible to apply for a labour agreement under the applicable DAMA.

Western Australian regions

  • South West
  • The Goldfields
  • East Kimberley
  • Pilbara

Queensland regions

  • Townsville
  • Far North Queensland

Victorian regions

  • Goulburn Valley
  • Great South Coast

Northern Territory regions

  • Northern Territory

New South Wales regions

  • Orana

South Australian regions

  • South Australia Regional
  • Adelaide City Technology and Innovation Advancement
Using a DAMA instead of the ordinary skilled visa pathways can allow businesses to sponsor overseas workers who may not qualify under the ordinary skilled visa pathways, or who may not have a permanent residency pathway.”  

A well-defined avenue to permanent residency can be a key tool in attracting and retaining skilled overseas workers. It is important for employers to be aware of any pathway that may be available to attract international talent.

Each DAMA has its own terms that have been negotiated with the Australian government based on the unique labour market conditions in each region.

Organisations seeking to use this pathway to hire skilled overseas workers should seek professional advice before starting the process to ensure they are selecting the visa strategy best suited to their business objectives. Obtaining professional advice upfront ensures that the process can be understood and that applications can be prepared efficiently and thoroughly.

How can MinterEllison assist?

MinterEllison's migration team has substantial experience in a wide range of migration issues, including visa strategies for regional employers. Our migration team is ideally placed to provide you with holistic advice on visa options and pathways to permanent residence in the context of business, financial and personal goals and limitations. We help guide applicants through the application process in a seamless, efficient and personalised manner.

Contact us to find out which visa strategy might be right for your organisation.

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