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Designated area migration agreements

Jul 10, 2022 | AUS | 0 comments

A Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) is a formal agreement between the Australian Government and a relevant authority such as region, state or territory. 

Exacerbated by the Covid-19 Pandemic, it is understandable that many businesses are experiencing difficulty in sourcing suitable Australian or local employees to fill roles. In the event where an employee may not be eligible for a sponsored visa under the standard business sponsorship pathway, DAMA’s provide opportunities for employers to employ overseas workers to fill skill shortages commonly faced in today’s climate of uncertainty and changes in the immigration landscape. 

DAMAs operate to act as a unique and boutique solution to fill skill shortages not available under other pathways, and provide space for flexible arrangements to be made for regions which can demonstrate significant economic benefits. This approach enables employers to broaden the pool of labour available, given the limited pool of labour in Australia at any one time, allowing the business to attract in addition to retain, suitable and more experienced workers. Further, the significant time dedicated to consultation ensures a substantial understanding of the varying stakeholder considerations, including ensuring Australians maintain priority whilst overseas workers are safeguarded from exploitation. 

Specifically addressed in this article, we will take a look at the Far North Queensland DAMA (FNQ) , and the East Kimberley (EK) DAMA. 

The FNQ DAMA and EK DAMA are agreements between the Cairns Chamber of Commerce and the East Kimberly Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federal Government, respectively. 

A substantial benefit and feature of the FNQ and EK DAMA, is that it allows employers to nominate employees under the Subclass 482 – Temporary Skill Shortage, Subclass 494- Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) and Subclass 186 – Employer Nomination Scheme visa programs, enabling these workers a pathway to permanent residency. 

Further, employers are able to access occupations not available via the traditional pathways, with a broader range of occupations (FNQ – 167 occupations, EK – 106 occupations) and skill-level, including semi-skilled, skill levels 1-5 and a requirement for substantial alignment of the occupation per ANZSCO in addition to non-ANZSCO occupations able to be accessed. 

Additional benefits of the FNQ and EK DAMAs, include but are not limited to no caveats applicable to certain occupations, a flexible approach with respect to the 30% overseas worker rule, priority processing and the ability to incentivise and

Last but certainly not least, the FNQ and EK DAMA’s allow for certain concessions to be requested. For example, concessions are able to be made for English language, age, ‘relevant work experience’, Salary/TSMIT, however it is up to the business, in consultation with the DAR to demonstrate the concessions are required based on justifiable need. 

Whilst DAMA’s provide for greater flexibility in a range of areas such as leniency in labour market testing requirements, it is important to note that the process requires the nomination to be sufficiently documented. 

However, the agreements whilst requiring employers to engage strategic long-term planning in line with projected demand, allowing key business concerns to be addressed, such as skills and knowledge transfer to the local workforce.

The role of the DAR will ensure that endorsement requests are assessed in their entirety, whilst actiging as a conduit between the local industry, agents and government agencies in line with annual caps. Further, they are able to value-add add as a result of local knowledge and assist employer with settlement information. 

The individual DAMA labour agreements are contractual agreements developed between the Australian Government, specific to the business and endorsed businesses operated within the designated region. However, they employers must seek and gain endorsement from the Designated Area Representative before lodging a labour agreement. This process is generally easy to obtain, however is a process of negotiation based on the specified framework outlined in the DAR head agreement. Nevertheless, these agreements allow for variation at any time for example, if an employer requires additional occupations and positions to be added, a deed of variation can be submitted. 

To clarify, DAMA’s operate under an two-tiered agreement based framework, the first of which being a head agreement in effect for 5 years and developed in consultation with the Designated Area Representative (DAR). The second of which allowing employers to develop individual labour agreements with employers under the same overarching terms and concessions of the head agreement for that region, also generally in effect for 5 years. 

Specific to the employer, similar requirements to other sponsored pathways apply. Employer are required to have been actively operating in Designated Area and:

  • be viable and have been operating for at least 12 months
  • have no history of not meeting obligations to employees
  • are looking to employ overseas workers to fill full-time positions with duties that align with one or more of the occupations on the DAMA Occupations List
  • can demonstrate they cannot fill the position locally with Australian citizens or permanent residents
  • can provide terms and conditions of employment to overseas workers that are equivalent to those offered to Australian workers employed in the region

Should you require further information in relation to the process or specifications in relation to the FNQ, EK or other DAMA’s currently in place, please do not hesitate to reach out. 

There may indeed be a DAMA applicable and worthwhile for your client to explore.