In the recent past the Australian Government has actively sought to promote the settlement of migrants to regional areas away from our populated cities with its growing toll on infrastructure and pollution. We have written about the government’s strategy for promoting regional migration in the past, and the article can be found here: New Regional Visas article.
The Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) is another strategy proposed by government to encourage migrants to settle in regional Australia.
What is DAMA?
A Designated Area Migration Agreement is a platform between specific areas of regional Australia and the federal government to permit skilled migration into the region. Specifically, it is an agreement-based framework providing regions with a flexibility to respond to their peculiar labour shortages.
DAMA is a two-tier framework between the Federal Government (Department of Immigration) and a regional or State authority in the first tier; and a second tier comprising individual labour agreements between employers and their regional authority.
Employers must first obtain the requisite permission from the Designated Area Representative before they can lodge a labour agreement request for skilled and semi-skilled occupations that have been specified in the head agreement.
DAMA is therefore a specialised kind of labour agreement which utilises the Temporary Skills Shortage platform.
This is an important change as parts of regional Australia are experiencing skill shortages and getting workers to move to regional Australia has been a challenge. Through the collaborative efforts occurring through DAMA the strategy will assist in promoting the government’s regional vision.
A key outcome of this strategy is that migrants moving to regional Australia have a job to go to and it enables employers in the approved regional area who are unable to find suitably qualified Australians to supplement their workforce with overseas workers.
What Visa can I get with DAMA?
Under DAMA skilled migrants will be able to apply for the Temporary Short Skilled (TSS) subclass 482 visa. The 482 visa will also provide a pathway for Visa Holders to apply for permanent residency after three years.
What does DAMA mean for skilled migrants?
Skilled migrants coming to regional Australia under DAMA are not reliant on the requisite occupation lists (MLTSSL, STSOL & ROL) but depending on the agreement can have occupations outside those lists, and therefore greater avenues to permanent residency. The agreement also ensures pay parity for migrants within the local community.
Where can you live with DAMA?
There are currently 5 active DAMA areas:
- Northern Territory
- The Goldfields, Western Australia: City of Kalgoorlie Boulder
- Great South Coast, Victoria
- Adelaide City
- Regional South Australia
These areas are currently accepting applications to be endorsed for a labour agreement under their respective DAMAs.
There are also 2 other DAMA’s currently in development:
- Orana, New South Wales – which should begin to accept applications for endorsed labour agreements soon; and
- Far North Queensland – which is the newest DAMA and is still negotiating occupations to be listed.
What occupations are currently listed under Designated Area Migration Agreement?
Occupations are still being added to DAMA but the agreement will have a much broader range of occupations than current regional visas. Already occupations such as bar attendant, waiter and cook (specialist ethnic cuisine) have been added despite these skilled and semi-skilled occupations not being listed in the three occupation lists.
What is an English proficiency concession?
Some occupations will be granted English proficiency concessions.
Through agreements reached DAMA applicants will be permitted access to permanent residency with a lower English Language Test score. This will make regional Australia more accessible to skilled migrants than ever before.
What does the Designated Area Migration Arrangement mean for regional businesses?
Small businesses have been identified by the government as key stake-holders in the introduction of DAMA. The new agreement will make working in regional Australia more beneficial to migrants than ever and facilitate symbiotic growth.
What will DAMA mean for Regional Australian workers?
DAMA will not make it harder for current residents to obtain employment. Under DAMA’s labour market testing a job cannot go to a visa holder if an Australian or resident is available, ensuring the prioritisation of Australian workers.
DAMA will require employers to prove that they have made a genuine attempt to recruit Australians prior to being eligible as sponsors.
How does DAMA work?
Small businesses will need to apply to their respective regional agencies to become endorsed as designated area representatives. This will require entering an endorsed labour agreement with the relevant local government body.
Businesses seeking to obtain a DAMA in Western Australia, Victoria or South Australia must:
- Be able to demonstrate financial profitability for at least 12 months
- Have no adverse history of not meeting their obligations to employees
- Are looking to employ overseas workers to fill full-time positions with duties that align with occupations on the Agreement occupation lists
- Can demonstrate they cannot fill the position locally with Australian citizens or permanent residents
- Will provide conditions of employment to overseas workers that are in accordance with those offered to Australian workers employed in the region.
Businesses seeking to obtain a DAMA in the Northern Territory must ensure:
- businesses have been actively operating for at least 12 months
- all positions to be filled must be located in the NT.
- businesses need to demonstrate they have undertaken appropriate labour market testing and are unable to employ an Australian citizen or permanent resident to fill the position
- the standard of labour market testing including duration, content and eligible mediums of advertising, are defined by the Department of Home Affairs
- provide evidence the terms and conditions of employment are in line with Australian workplace standards – they must be no less than what an Australian would be paid to undertake the same job in the same location.
DAMA agreements will generally be in effect for 5-years.
How can I apply for a visa under DAMA?
Applicants cannot apply directly for DAMA. Instead they must be sponsored by an approved business with a valid endorsed labour agreement in a designated region for an occupation that has been agreed in the heads of agreement.
There are currently over 50 labour agreements active under DAMA within a litany of various industries. Applicants must satisfy any skill assessment, test of English proficiency, and other tests as required under DAMA before the business can lodge an application to nominate them.
All employees looking to obtain a visa under DAMA must meet all eligibility requirements of the 482 TSS visa. To be eligible you must:
- Have at least 2 years work experience related to your intended field
- Be nominated by an approved business for a listed occupation
- Pass health and character tests
- Have the relevant English skills and assessment
- Sign an Australian value statement (for every applicant over 18)
- Have adequate health insurance
- Not be in debt to the Australian government
Northern Territory and Western Australian have additional requirements for occupations that are not listed (MLTSSL, STSOL or ROL), applicants must
- Meet the skill level as defined in ANZSCO
- Be able to demonstrate the relevant skill, assessable by the relevant authority if required:
- Have the appropriate qualifications, or an equivalent qualification
- Have 2 years post qualification experience
- The work experience will depend on the prescribed skill level of the occupation:
(i) For ANZSCO level 1-3 occupations it will be two years;
(ii) For ANZSCO level 4 occupations it will be between 12 months and 2 years depending on the qualification.
Please note the information provided in this article is correct at time of publication in September 2019.
If you are interested in becoming a nominator under DAMA or you are an employee seeking a visa under DAMA please contact our migration lawyer. They will be able to demystify the process, guide and assist you in this elaborate and complex process.
Please contact our migration lawyer Peter Kuek-Kong Lee of Rostron Carlyle Rojas Lawyers on (07) 3009 8444, or email: [email protected]; or Anna Gunning-Stevenson, Lawyer and Registered Migration Agent MARN 1797244 on (07) 3009 8444, or email: [email protected]