Agribusiness extends across all food and fibre including farming, fishing, forestry and horticulture, to some areas of food processing (such as meat). With demand for both seasonal and ongoing skills and labour, there are a number of visa options for the agriculture sector in Australia. Migration Solutions has advised many businesses and industry associations through industry agreements, Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMA) and remedies for skills shortages through the Australian immigration program. This industry continues to experience significant skills shortages in Certificate II and III level occupations, as well as many other ongoing and seasonal positions.
Migration Solutions are proud members of AusVeg SA and have relationships across the agricultural sector with associations and regional bodies. We have worked with many agribusiness and food companies involved in meat processing and packing, fruit and vegetable farming, broadacre farming, wine making and groceries.
The types of immigration programs and visa, business and industry can access to address agricultural skills and labour shortages include:
- The Agriculture Visa
- The Pacific Labour Scheme
- Seasonal Worker Program
- Temporary Skills Shortage, Subclass 482 Visa
- Labour Agreements
- Company Specific labour agreements
- Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMA)
- Industry labour agreements, including
- Other Temporary visas
The Australian Agriculture Visa was announced by the Federal Government on 23 August 2021. This is a very exciting, highly anticipated and well overdue new visa program and one that has the potential to assist key industry sectors in regional Australia. Details are likely to be announced at the end of September 2021. Based on the Government’s media release, the new Australian Agriculture visa will build on the highly successful existing Pacific Labour Scheme and the Seasonal Worker Program. It will be available to workers across the agriculture (including meat processing), fisheries and forestry sectors.
This program has been introduced following the 2021 UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement which removed the requirement for UK backpackers to work on farms to get their 2nd working holiday visa and allows the agriculture (including meat processing), fisheries and forestry sectors and extended opportunity to access Australia’s migration program to address current and future workforce needs.
Like the Pacific program, we know that the Agriculture Visa will be primarily operated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), however, visas for applicants and sponsorship approval will still need to be approved by the Department of Home Affairs (DoHA). The Agriculture visa will be open to applicants from a range of countries negotiated through bilateral agreements.
Details of eligibility and a path to permanent residency (PR) have not yet been announced. With the program set to commence in September 2021, it is more likely that the program will operate very similar to the settings of the existing Pacific programs rather than the Federal Government creating new visa programs, rules and regulations, especially considering the success of the existing Pacific schemes.
Read more about it here “New farm working visa to begin next month, providing pathway to permanent residence for foreigners” (ABC 23/8/2021)
Pacific Labour Scheme
The Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) is offered through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) and the Department of Home Affairs (DoHA). The PLS:
- Helps employers and key industry sectors to address current and future workforce shortages in rural and regional Australia (all of SA)
- Provides opportunities for Pacific and Timorese workers from 10 participating countries to work and gain experience and skills, earn income and send remittances home to support their families and communities.
It covers all ANZSCO skill level 3 (skilled trades), skill level 4 (semi-skilled roles) and skill level 5 (lower-skilled roles), which are amongst the needs of both AusVeg members and many other agricultural sectors. Importantly, workers can stay in Australia for up to three years at a time, giving longer term, workforce security. They can return for another three years, after 12 months at home.
This program offers significant benefits over the temporary skill shortage 482 visa program.
A common misconception about this program is the need to go through a labour hire agency. Businesses can independently gain approval from DFAT and the Department of Home Affairs to recruit directly with the assistance of Migration Solutions as your business partner.
Seasonal Worker Program
The Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) is offered through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) and the Department of Home Affairs (DoHA) and is available to employers in the agriculture and accommodation sector where they can not meet seasonal workforce demand from the local labour market. The program has two key objectives, to assist employers address current and future workforce needs where this can not be met from the local labour market and to contribute to economic growth and development of 9 participating Pacific Island counties and Timor-Leste. SWP visa holders are permitted to remain in Australia for a maximum of 9 months out of every 12 month period.
Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) 482 Visa
This temporary demand driven visa enables employers to attract and employ skilled migrants to work in occupations that appear on the list of eligible occupations to address local labour shortages. There are four different streams under this visa:
- Short-term stream: A short term, temporary visa. Depending on the visa applicant’s country of origin, visa holders can stay in Australia for up to 2 years, or up to four years if an International Trade Obligation applies, or up to five years for Hong Kong passport holders.
- Medium-term stream: A temporary visa that enables a business to employ skilled workers who can stay in Australia for up to four years (or up to 5 years for Hong Kong passport holders).
- Labour agreement stream: Migration Solutions can assist employers to establish a Labour Agreement with the Australian Government. This then entitles the employer to recruit skilled migrants to live and work in Australia temporarily, for up to four years or Hong Kong passport holders for five years.
Labour agreements allow approved businesses to employ and sponsor overseas workers where there is a demand that cannot be met by the Australian local labour market and where occupations sought do not appear on other Departmental visa programs. Labour agreements are negotiated between businesses and the Department of Home Affairs and are generally in effect for five years. Different most relevant types of Labour Agreements for the Agriculture sector include:
Company Specific Labour Agreements
Company Specific Labour Agreements are available to employers where current and future workforce demand cannot be met by the local labour market. Essentially, a Company Specific Labour Agreement is something that allows employers to negotiate their own unique migration program with the Department of Home Affairs and the Minister, this can include occupations that do not appear on standard visa occupation lists. Variations to work experience, English requirements and age concessions, plus pathways to permanent residency can be negotiated in these agreements.
Designated Area Migration Agreement
A Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) is a formal agreement between the Australian Government and a regional, state or territory authority to provide access to more overseas workers than the standard skilled migration program. DAMAs operate under an agreement-based framework, providing flexibility for regions to respond to their unique economic and labour market conditions, nominating negotiated skills and roles for potential international recruits. For South Australia, there is an Adelaide City Technology and Innovation Advancement DAMA and a South Australian regional Workforce Agreement DAMA that may be used by regional and agricultural businesses to address workforce needs. Contact Migration Solutions to discuss the program in full.
Industry Labour Agreements
Industry Labour Agreements are negotiated between industry bodies and the Department of Home Affairs and the Minister of Immigration which allows the recruitment of an agreed number of overseas skilled workers. For agricultural businesses, there are a number of Industry Labour Agreements available to employers. These include the Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement (HILA), Dairy Industry Labour Agreement (DILA), Fishing Industry Labour Agreement (FILA), Meat Industry Labour Agreement (MILA) and Pork Industry Labour Agreement (PILA). Migration Solutions consults to industry bodies and businesses and has assisted many with establishing these agreements and the resulting visas for employees. Businesses seeking access to an Industry Labour Agreement must also obtain a Company Specific Labour Agreement with the Department of Home Affairs.
The HILA increase access to 31 skilled and semi-skilled occupations for up to 4 years and/or permanent residence to address current and future workforce needs in the Horticulture sector. Concessions available include a discount of up to 10% on the Temporary Skill Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT), a broader range of monetary payments and non-monetary benefits counted towards guaranteed earnings, reduced English language requirements and an age concession for those seeking a pathway to permanent residency (up to 50 rather than up to 45 years of age).
“This agreement is a significant step forward for the industry that will help businesses get the skilled workforce they require as our industry becomes more skilled and technologically-savvy.” AUSVEG thanked the various industry bodies for their support in creating the agreement as well as migration specialists Mark Glazbrook, Migration Solutions, and Mark Cody, Primary Industry Skills Council SA, for their expertise in developing the agreement for the benefit of growers.
The DILA provides access to “senior dairy cattle farm workers” for up to 4 years and/or permanent residence to address current and future workforce needs in the Dairy Industry. The standard TSMIT applies.
The FILA provides access to Deck Hands, Fishing Hands, Master Fishers, Ships Engineers (fishing industry), Ships Masters and Ships officers for up to 4 years to address current and future workforce needs in the Fishing Industry.
The PILA provides access to ‘Senior Stockperson (piggery)’ for periods of up to 4 years and/or permanent residence to address current and future workforce needs in the Pork Industry.