The Joint media release on the 23rd of August, from Barnaby Joyce, David Littleproud, Marise Payne and Alex Hawke, announced the establishment of an Australian Agriculture visa to build on the highly successful existing Pacific schemes. It aims to provide a basis for the ongoing growth of Australia’s primary industries.
The new visa will be available to workers across the agricultural sector, including horticulture, farming, meat processing, fisheries and forestry sectors, and will provide a mechanism to address labour shortages in this sector that have been exacerbated by Covid-19. This program has been introduced following the UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement which will now see less UK backpackers needing to work on farms to get their 2nd working holiday visa. Like the Pacific program, we know that the Australian 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 press release states that the Australian Agriculture visa will be open to applicants from a range of countries negotiated through bilateral agreements. At this time (based on this article from the Australian) it appears as though the partner or participating countries will include 10 ASEAN nations, including Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
It is yet to be seen if a bilateral agreement will be negotiated with India and we are yet to see any requirements regarding visa eligibility criteria and the pathway to permanent residency. It is likely that the specific details regarding the permanent residency pathway will not be announced for some time, as it is likely that the permanent residency pathway will not be available to visa holders until they have been in Australia on a temporary visa for at least 3 to 4 years. This is similar to conditions in the Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMA) and the Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement (HILA).
With the program set to commence in September, it is more likely that it will operate under very similar to the settings to 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.
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. As always, the devil is in the detail. We are yet to see any details of how these visas will operate or their pathway to permanent residency.