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Visa solutions for regional Australia

Australia’s population reached 25 million in August 2018, 33 years ahead of predictions. With the total employment in Australia projected to increase by 886,100 new positions by May 2023, Australia is experiencing major skill shortages across a number of industries and employers are nervous to see their lowest numbers of job applicants in years.

The situation is even worse in regional Australia, where (despite the demand) employers are struggling to expand their businesses as they cannot find the skilled staff that they need.

In addressing the growing number of job vacancies, new incentives are being introduced by the Australian Government for migrants to live and work in regional Australia.

On 8 February 2019, it was announced that $19.4 million will be provided in funding over the next four years to support regional areas to attract skilled migrants.

The Hon David Coleman, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, said these initiatives will support regional employers to get the skilled workers they need to grow and develop their businesses.

The Australian Government is also significantly expanding the Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) framework as one of the solutions.

What is a DAMA?

A DAMA is a framework designed to ensure employers recruit Australians as a first priority, and provides flexibility to employers in designated areas to sponsor skilled and semi-skilled overseas workers if they are experiencing skill shortages in the Australian labour market.

Currently, the Northern Territory has a DAMA in place which allows employers in the Northern Territory to sponsor overseas workers for positions they are otherwise unable to fill with local labour. This applies to the whole of the Northern Territory and is tailored to address current and emerging labour market shortages and local terms and conditions of employment.

In Victoria, the Great South Coast region’s DAMA was announced on 10 December 2018 to provide opportunity for the region’s businesses to more easily find skilled workers.

In joint media releases on 21 March 2019, the following DAMAs were also announced:

  • For South Australia, the Adelaide City Technology and Innovation Advancement Agreement and Regional South Australia DAMA arrangements were agreed to in helping fill critical employment gaps and to drive economic growth.
  • Western Australia’s Goldfields region will benefit from a DAMA being signed with the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder to address the employment needs of the region in key roles where Australian workers are not available.

These recent announcements demonstrate that the DAMA framework is expanding across the regional areas of Australia as a viable solution to the current skill shortages, and it’s just a matter of time before an arrangement is negotiated for employers in regional Queensland.

The Australian Government also announced on 20 March 2019 that they plan to incentivise migrants to settle outside the big cities by introducing two new regional visas in November 2019 for skilled overseas workers:

  • Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) Visa for those sponsored by an employer in regional Australia; and
  • Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) Visa for those who are nominated by a State / Territory Government or sponsored by an eligible family member to live and work in regional Australia.

The new initiatives will include priority processing of applications and access to a wider range of skilled occupations. It will provide a pathway for migrants to apply for permanent residency status after three years of living and working in regional Australia. New tertiary scholarships will too be introduced to attract both Australian and international students to study in regional Australia.

Other solutions that are currently available includes the:

  • Working Holiday Visa (Subclass 417) and Work and Holiday Visa (Subclass 462), allowing young travellers to extend their stay in Australia if they complete a specified amount of work in certain industries in regional Australia.
  • Skilled Regional (Provisional) Visa (Subclass 489), for overseas skilled workers to live and work in specified regional areas in Australia for up to four years. The visa holder may apply for permanent residency by way of the Skilled Regional Visa (Subclass 887) once certain requirements are met.
  • Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme Visa (Subclass 187), which allows skilled migrants to be nominated by regional employers to live and work in Australia on a permanent basis.

As competition for quality employees is at a peak, employers in regional Australia need to think outside the box and look beyond Australia for skilled workers.

Whether you are an Australian business seeking to fill a vacant position or an overseas worker who wants to contribute your skills, we can assist in finding the best migration solutions to benefit all parties involved.

Written by Corina Chen, Senior Associate 

"The content of this publication is for reference purposes only. It is current at the date of publication. This content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication."