The Honourable David Coleman, MP, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs has announced that the Government is providing funding of $19.4 million over the next 4 years to help regional areas attract skilled migrants.

The Department of Home Affairs will provide priority processing for skilled migrants who seek to live and work in regional areas and expects to negotiate further Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMA) with regional communities.

What is a DAMA?

A DAMA is a 5 year agreement between a regional or state/territory authority and the Department of Home Affairs. DAMAs provide opportunities for employers in designated areas to sponsor a wider range of skilled and semi-skilled workers for positions which are not available under the standard employer sponsored visa programs.

Currently, there is only one DAMA covering the Northern Territory which utilises the Subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage visa agreement stream. The NT DAMA allows salary and English language concessions for certain occupations and provides pathways to permanent residency for visa holders.

The Department also expects that the Great South Coast DAMA, administered from Warrnambool, Victoria, will be finalised shortly. This DAMA will enable agriculture, hospitality and other businesses in the region to address critical labour shortages through accessing a larger pool of foreign workers, thus enabling businesses to grow.

The Department is also negotiating agreements with other regional areas such as Cairns in Queensland and Orana in western New South Wales.

Potential impact on skilled workers

Skilled workers will still need to find an employer in the particular DAMA region to sponsor them for a Subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage visa. The Government has proposed that workers sponsored under a DAMA who leave their designated areas will face visa cancellation. Subclass 482 visa holders already face visa cancellation for leaving their employer if they cannot find a new sponsor within 60 days. We expect that the same or a similar mechanism will be used for visa holders sponsored under a DAMA.

The Federal Government is continuing to discuss regional approaches to migration with each state's population growth and urban planning departments. However, the states are frustrated with the Federal Government's inability to properly address the more crucial issues of lack of infrastructure to support a growing population and want to approach the issue holistically.

How can I get involved?

If your business is struggling to find suitably skilled local staff please contact Hammond Taylor to discuss the sponsored visa options which may be available to you.

The Department of Home Affairs has released a number of new programs to assist businesses where they are unable to use the standard 482 visa program, such as the DAMA, Labour Agreements, the >Global Talent Scheme and Start-up Visa. We can assist you to identify the most suitable pathway to suit your needs.

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