Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMAs) are formal agreements between the Australian Government and certain regional State or Territory authorities.
It is not a visa in itself, but opens up a pathway for employers in these designated regional areas to sponsor skilled and semi-skilled workers, for positions that they are unable to fill with local workers.
With current and growing labour shortages in regional Australia, some employers have a real need to sponsor overseas workers but may find that the regular visa pathways are not possible. The DAMA aims to offer more flexibility, acknowledging that businesses in regional Australia have unique needs.
What visa does a DAMA lead to?
Ultimately, there are two tiers to a DAMA. Firstly, there is the “head agreement” negotiated between a Designated Area Representative (DAR) – typically regional bodies such as the Chamber of Commerce, or Regional Development Office – and the Australian Government.
This “head agreement” typically sets out the range of occupations that can be accessed, as well as agreed terms and concessions to skilled visa criteria (as negotiated).
An employer in these areas covered by the DAMA head agreement who is interested in accessing these occupations, then applies for a Labour Agreement (between themselves and the Australian Government). To do this, they must first apply to their local DAR for endorsement.
Once approved the Labour Agreement gives the employer access to additional occupations and concessions for the:
- Temporary Skill Shortage visa (Subclass 482);
- Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional visa (Subclass 494); or
- Employer Nomination Scheme (Subclass 186).
In other words, the DAMA is an employer-sponsored visa program, and so it is not available to individuals without employers.
Which regions have access to the DAMA?
There are currently 12 DAMA agreements between the Government and the following DARs:
- Adelaide City Technology and Innovation Advancement, SA: Skilled & Business Migration
- East Kimberley, WA: East Kimberley Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- Far North Queensland, QLD: Cairns Chamber of Commerce,
- Goulburn Valley, VIC: Goulburn Valley
- Great South Coast, VIC: Warrnambool City Council
- Northern Territory, NT: Northern Territory Designated Area Migration Agreement
- Orana, NSW: Regional Development Australia – Orana, NSW
- Pilbara, WA: RDA Pilbara
- South Australia Regional, SA: Skilled & Business Migration
- South West, WA: Shire of Dardanup
- The Goldfields, WA: City of Kalgoorlie Boulder;
- Townsville, QLD: Townsville Enterprise Limited
What are the possible concessions through a DAMA?
Noting that the DAMA aims to offer flexibility in accessing the employer-sponsored visas, some of the possible concessions include:
- A broader range of occupations which may not otherwise be eligible for an employer-sponsored visa (e.g. Skill Level 4 or “semi-skilled” occupations);
- The removal of caveats which would otherwise apply;
- Concessions to English requirements;
- Concessions to salary requirements;
- Concessions to age (for pathways to employer-sponsored PR);
- A possible pathway to employer-sponsored permanent residency for occupations which would otherwise not be eligible.
The exact concessions available will depend on the region and occupation.
Will I need a Skills Assessment for a DAMA?
This will also depend on the terms of the DAMA Labour Agreement with the Government. But generally, if the occupation selected is not on Australia’s short-term skilled occupation list (STSOL), medium and long-term strategic skills list (MLTSSL), or regional occupation list (ROL), it can be expected that a positive skills assessment will be needed as part of the visa application.
What are the steps to utilise a DAMA?
In short, the steps leading to a visa grant through the DAMA involves:
- The employer must apply to the relevant DAR for endorsement. If successful, the DAR notifies the Australian Government of its endorsement;
- The employer can then submit an application to enter into an individual DAMA Labour Agreement with the Government;
- If successful, the Labour Agreement will set out the terms and confirm which concessions will apply;
- The employer can then lodge a Subclass 482, 494, or 186 nomination application, and the employee can lodge their associated visa application.
To consider the DAMA, or the visa related to the DAMA, feel free to contact us by email at [email protected] or phone (03) 9016 0484.