Regional Visas: Semi-Skilled Work Visas

Did you know a barista can obtain Australian Permanent Residency and eventually Australian Citizenship? So can a bar supervisor, bus driver and child care worker. This is one of the great opportunities presented by Regional Visas. With all the buzz about the new Regional Visas, now is a great time to assess whether this is a suitable option to Permanent Residency for you.

Baristas and other semi-skilled workers can obtain Australian Permanent Residency through a series of work visas. In particular, through the Temporary Skill Shortage (Subclass 482) Visa. However, they must access a particular stream of the 482 Visa. This stream is called the Labour Agreement Stream.

A particular kind of Labour Agreement is available in regional areas. This is called the Designated Area Migration Agreement, or “DAMA”. The DAMA allows businesses located in specific regional areas of Australia to sponsor skilled and semi-skilled workers.

The four stage DAMA process

While this presents great opportunities for regional employers and regional workers, it is a complicated four-stage process. Employers must – 1) lodge an endorsement application, and once approved; 2) lodge a labour agreement application, and finally; 3) lodge a nomination application.

Workers must also lodge their own visa application and ensure they can demonstrate the required skills. All four of these applications (Endorsement, Labour Agreement, Nomination and Visa applications) have their own specific criteria.

Let’s look at the example of the Northern Territory, which has a DAMA in place for the whole Territory. While the details apply to the Northern Territory, the process is similar for other DAMAs across Australia.

1. Endorsement application

The Australian Business must apply for an endorsement from the Northern Territory Department of Trade, Business and Innovation. At this stage, this Department assesses the sponsoring business. In particular, the Department will investigate, among other things:

  • Whether the business has been running for at least 12 months;
  • If it is profitable and can afford to hire the semi-skilled migrant;
  • Details regarding the occupation and why it is needed in the business;
  • Whether the business completed adequate advertising to find local Citizens to fill the role, rather than a migrant; and
  • Whether the nominated semi-skilled migrant will be paid fairly.

The migrant may be required to prove their work experience and/or qualifications. For example, a barista must provide evidence of two years of full-time work experience. However, a child care worker must provide evidence of a relevant diploma-level qualification or above and one year of post-qualification experience (NT DAMA only). Other DAMA programs will require you to undergo a skills assessment.

The extent of experience required will depend on the occupation.

2. Labour agreement application

Once the Endorsement Application is approved, the Business will then need to apply for a Labour Agreement with the Department of Home Affairs. A Labour Agreement is an individualised agreement between the sponsoring company and the federal government about who the company can sponsor, how many positions they can sponsor and the conditions on each sponsorship.

3. Nomination application

Once the Labour Agreement is approved, the business must then submit a Nomination Application. An individual application must be submitted for each migrant worker that the business wants to sponsor.

The Department of Home Affairs will conduct it’s own assessment of the DAMA application at this stage. This means they will double check the Endorsement Application material, specifically to examine (among other criteria):

  • If the business is profitable and can afford to hire the migrant;
  • What the nominated occupation is and why it is needed in the business;
  • Whether Australian Citizens can fill the role, rather than a migrant; and
  • Whether the nominated migrant will be paid fairly.

4. Visa application

While the Nomination Application is processing, or once it is approved, each migrant must lodge a Visa Application. The Department of Home Affairs will assess whether the migrant (among other issues):

  • Has the required work experience and qualifications. For example, a bus driver must demonstrate 2 years of full-time, paid work experience (NT DAMA); 
  • Can demonstrate the required level of English; and
  • Does not have any health, character/criminal or immigration issues.

Application costs

The NT DAMA application generally includes the following costs:

  • Endorsement Application – free.
  • Labour Agreement Application – free.
  • Nomination Application – $330 for each person being sponsored.
  • Skilling Australians Fund Levy (paid by the sponsoring business if they turnover less than $10 million per year) – $1,200 per year of sponsorship ($4,800 for the usual four years).
  • Skilling Australians Fund Levy (paid by the sponsoring business if they turnover more than $10 million per year) – $1,800 per year of sponsorship ($7,200 for the usual four years).
  • Visa Application – $2,645 for each applicant, including family members that are over 18. $660 for each child.
  • Other costs including English tests, health checks, police checks and Migration Agent professional fees.

All costs are in Australian Dollars.

Processing times

The processing times for an application can be important, especially if an applicant’s visa is expiring. The average processing times for each application are:

  • Endorsement Application – 10 business days.
  • Labour Agreement Application – up to 6 months (however we often get these back in 1 – 2 months.
  • Nomination and Visa Application – 1 – 4 months.

Keep in mind, applications can be made while the sponsored worker is in Australia or out of Australia.

Permanent residency pathway

The NT DAMA presents migrants and regional businesses with a unique Permanent Residency pathway. Applicants can apply for a Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (Subclass 482) using the DAMA at any age. But if applicants apply for the Permanent Residency Employer Nominated Scheme Visa (Subclass 186), they usually must be under 45 years old.

Applicants can apply for a 186 Visa using the DAMA and obtain Permanent Residency if they apply before they turn 50 years old. The other advantages are the English language concessions, wider variety of jobs available for sponsorship and salary concessions for sponsoring businesses.

Other DAMAs

Aside from the NT DAMA, there are also DAMA agreements for –

  • Kalgoorlie Boulder, the Goldfields, Western Australia;
  • Warrnambool City Council, Great South Coast, Victoria;
  • Adelaide and Regional South Australia;
  • Orana, New South Wales; and
  • Far North Queensland.

Each of these have their own eligible occupations, concessions and eligibility requirements.

Next steps

If you wish to obtain help in using the DAMA, either as a business or a visa applicant, we can help. Submit a question below or book a consultation so that we can conduct a full eligibility consultation. We may also find other options that meet your goals.



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