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Immigration policies encouraging the Technology and Innovation sector towards South Australia

By 16 May, 2019November 18th, 2021No Comments7 min read

On 13 May 2019, Immigration South Australia (SA) released further information relating to two Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMA) for the State, one of which targets “innovation and technology”.

Over the past year, the Australian Government have been implementing Immigration policies in a bid to increase a greater push in innovation and tech towards South Australia. This is primarily captured through the:

  • Supporting Innovation in South Australia (SISA); and
  • Adelaide Innovation and Technology Agreement (AITA).

The SISA aims to attract seed-stage entrepreneurs to South Australia with an affordable visa, after being first endorsed by the South Australian Government.

The primary objective of the AITA is to provide access and age concessions to employer sponsored permanent residency for businesses sponsoring skilled migrants in occupations typically used by the defence, space and advanced manufacturing and technology industries.


The SISA is pilot three-year programme running from November 2018 – 2021, and is aimed at seed-stage entrepreneurs seeking to take an innovative idea forward in South Australia.

This pilot programme enables the entrepreneur to access the Temporary Activity Subclass 408 visa, which will permit the holder to stay in Australia from the date of approval until November 2021.

The SISA is targeted towards anyone who has an innovative, entrepreneurial idea or concept, or is working on an innovative early-stage business ideally with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) or some demonstrable traction. The individual must:

  • have an innovative idea with a supporting business plan;
  • be endorsed by the South Australia Department for Trade, Tourism and Investment;
  • be under 45 years of age;
  • demonstrate a “vocational” level of English;
  • meet health, character and financial requirements; and
  • have sufficient funds to support themselves (and accompanying family members).

Priority has been afforded to individuals with proposals in the Defence and Space, Cybersecurity / Big data / Digital and Blockchain, Food/Wine and AgTech, Health & Medical Technology, Robotics, and Media & Film industries. Certain business types are ineligible for endorsement.


The business concept, idea or proposal must be suitably endorsed. To achieve this, the applicant must commit to developing a start-up project in South Australia which has a strong potential to create local employment and export revenue for South Australia. The project should have at least 50% of its assets and staff located in South Australia.

Applications for endorsement by the South Australian Government must be submitted to Immigration SA, and have two pathways for assessment, being under either the:

  • South Australian innovation eco-system service providers; or
  • the Office of Chief Entrepreneur (OCE).

Applying under the eco-system service provider pathway offers priority processing, and there are currently 4 eco-system service providers: Innovation & Collaboration Centre (ICC), The Moonshine Laboratory, New Venture Institute (NVI), and ThincLab. The applicant must seek support from one of the eco-system service providers.

The OCE pathway would result in the applicant’s business concept being forwarded to the OCE for assessment which will be assessed by a panel on a quarterly basis. The panel will then advise Immigration SA if the OCE would support the business concept/proposal.

Upon receiving a suitable endorsement from Immigration SA, visa applicants would have 60 days to lodge an application for a Subclass 408 visa. With a cost of $200 application fee to seek endorsement, and a $285 visa application charge, this presents a significantly cheaper alternative to the primary work visa to Australia – being the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Subclass 482 visa.


The AITA is a “Designated Area Migration Agreement” (DAMA) which supports the Adelaide City Deal.

The purpose of this is primarily aimed at allowing sponsoring employers to attract skilled migrants by allowing certain occupations to have access to employer-sponsored permanent residency, and providing age concessions for most of them.

What is a DAMA?

A DAMA is an agreement typically negotiated by a “designated area” of Australia with the Australian Government for 5 years. The DAMA often allows businesses in the designated areas to enter into a “Labour Agreement” with the Australian government to sponsor foreign workers for a Temporary Skilled Shortage (TSS) Subclass 482 visa.

Generally speaking, a “Labour Agreement” allows the business to access certain concessions to the standard TSS visa programme, including:

  • occupations that were not previously available;
  • English language concessions;
  • salary concessions;
  • Pathways to employer sponsored permanent residency.

Existing DAMAs have been negotiated for the Northern Territory, the Great South Coast region in Victoria, Kalgoorlie-Boulder, and the Orana region in NSW. These concessions are typically made to assist with industries specific requirements of the region. For example, the Great South Coast DAMA is primarily aimed at agriculture, hospitality and certain trade occupations.

What are the benefits of the AITA?

The AITA DAMA covers only the Adelaide Metropolitan region, and specifically allow provides a pathway to employer sponsored permanent residency for:

  • a wide range of occupations (some of which would not traditionally be eligible); and
  • increase the age concession from 45 to either 50 or 55 (depending on the occupation).

It’s particularly attractive to skilled migrants who would not otherwise be able to access employer sponsored permanent residency options either due to their age, or because they work in occupations such as: Graphic Designer, Film & Video Editors, Web Designers, Web Developers, Manufacturer, Procurement Managers, Production Managers etc.

A cap of 1,050 positions in the first year has been set.


The two policies are an interesting push towards encouraging foreign entrepreneurs and skilled workers towards South Australia. The SISA in particular is an interesting pilot which could provide the groundwork for an overhaul or replacement of the Entrepreneur Stream of the Subclass 188 visa – a 2.5 year old visa that has yielded 8 visas (primary and secondary).

The SISA is an attractive prospect in that it offers:

  • a significantly cheaper visa alternative for individuals to set-up their business in Adelaide (compared to the traditional TSS visa programme);
  • no funding requirements – meaning a more accessible pathway for overseas entrepreneurs to enter Australia compared to the existing Entrepreneur stream of the Subclass 188 visa.

With the visa grant being until a maximum of November 2021, and applications only being accepted until November 2020, we would recommend interested parties apply soon.

What will be of interest however is whether the pilot programme would be:

  • extended beyond November 2011;
  • expanded to other Australian State/Territories; or
  • offering transition measures to individuals granted visas to make alternate arrangements (such as renewals).

The AITA DAMA gives businesses the ability to offer an additional incentive to skilled migrants to move to Adelaide. The main benefactors of this are individuals:

  • whose occupations would’ve prevented them from otherwise obtaining permanent residency; and
  • aged 45 and above (whose salaries don’t meet the threshold required to receive an age exemption).

Next Steps

If you’re interested in either of the above two schemes or would like to know more, please feel free to contact us by email at [email protected] or phone +61 3 9016 0484


Jordan Tew

Author Jordan Tew

Jordan is one of less than 50 lawyers who are Accredited Specialists in Immigration Law by the Law Institute of Victoria, and less than 100 nationally. Accredited Specialists undergo a vigorous assessment process, and make up about 1% of all registered migration agents.

More posts by Jordan Tew

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