If you are having difficulty finding local employees to work for your business, you may seek to engage workers from overseas. Although they may not be eligible for a working visa under the standard business sponsorship scheme, you may be able to employ these workers under a designated area migration agreement (DAMA). This is an agreement formed between you, the Department of Home Affairs and a regional state or territory authority, under the Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa subclass 482. This article outlines the: 

  • existing DAMA agreements;
  • common elements and requirements across these arrangements; and
  • specific details you need to know from each DAMA.

Existing Australian DAMAs

There are seven DAMAs in place across Australia, including:

Common Business Requirements

There are some common requirements that you will need to fulfil to engage an employee under a DAMA, irrespective of which DAMA covers your business. You will need to show that you:

  • are actively operating in the state or designated region;
  • are financially viable and have been operating for at least 12 months;
  • have no history of not meeting its obligations to employees;
  • are looking to employ overseas workers to fill full-time positions with duties that align with one of the occupations on each DAMAs occupation list;
  • can demonstrate they cannot fill the position locally with Australian citizens or permanent residents; and
  • can provide terms and conditions of employment to overseas workers that are in accordance with those offered to Australian workers employed in the region.

Common Key Advantages

Using a DAMA instead of the usual employer sponsored visas available to you will be advantageous for a number of reasons. For instance it:

  • provides pathways to permanent residency for certain occupations;
  • offers English language concessions for some occupations;
  • offers salary concessions for some occupations; and
  • allows you to form a five year agreement.

Indeed, certain occupations will require lower English language competency than those under employer sponsored visa programs. Similarly, some DAMA occupations will not require you to meet the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) when paying your foreign worker, which is currently $53,900. To seek this concession, however, there needs to be a strong business case. You will also need to show that the salary offered is at least equivalent to what an Australian citizen could expect for the same role.

Northern Territory DAMA

All businesses situated in the Northern Territory are eligible to access the Northern Territory DAMA, regardless of their specific location. The potential employee’s occupation must be on the occupation list, which outlines the specific occupations that may be fulfilled under the agreement. 

Certain occupations on the list are entitled to both English language concessions and salary concessions. Another advantage of the Northern Territory DAMA is that no extra caveats or conditions apply. 

For example, there are no requirements that the business already have a certain number of employees or pay the foreign worker a certain salary.

The Goldfields DAMA 

Businesses who operate in the Goldfields area have access to this DAMA, including the: 

  • City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder;
  • Shire of Coolgardie;
  • Shire of Leonora; and 
  • Shire of Menzies.

The potential employee must carry out duties which align closely with those on the occupation list to be eligible under this scheme. The Goldfields DAMA provides access to two occupations not included in the Australia and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupation (ANZSCO). These include the positions of: 

  • bar attendant (supervisor); and 
  • waiter (supervisor). 

English language concessions apply to certain occupations on the list. Your business can also seek a salary concession, however, there must be a strong business case for waiving this requirement. This is only likely to be available for four occupations, including: 

  • bar attendant (supervisor);
  • beef cattle farmer;
  • child care worker; and
  • waiter (supervisor).

Great South Coast DAMA

This DAMA covers the entire Great South Coast region, including the Local Government areas of: 

  • Glenelg Shire;
  • Southern Grampians Shire;
  • Moyne Shire:
  • Corangamite Shire:
  • Colac-Otway Shire; and 
  • Warrnambool City Council.  

There are certain occupations that are eligible for sponsorship under the Great South Coast DAMA. You may also benefit from a number of English language or salary concessions.

You can hire a senior dairy cattle farm worker or a dairy cattle farm operator under the Great South Coast DAMA, despite these occupations not being listed under the general visa sponsorship schemes.

South Australian DAMA 

South Australia has two DAMAs, including the: 

  • Adelaide City Technology and Innovation Advancement (ACTIA) DAMA; and
  • South Australian Regional Workforce (SARW) DAMA.

The ACTIA DAMA was designed to address skills shortages across the Adelaide Metropolitan region. There are a number of occupations listed for which you can employ workers.

Additionally, the SARW DAMA has a separate occupation list that you should assess. It also allows for a number of concessions to the workers’:

  • salary;
  • English language requirements; and
  • age.

Orana DAMA 

The Orana region DAMA applies to the local government areas of: 

  • Bogan Shire;
  • Bourke Shire;
  • Brewarrina Shire;
  • Cobar Shire;
  • Coonamble Shire;
  • Dubbo Region;
  • Gilgandra Shire;
  • Mid-Western Region;
  • Narromine Shire;
  • Warren Shire;
  • Walgett Shire; and
  • Warrumbungle Shire. 

Certain occupations are eligible for sponsorship under the Orana DAMA. There are also a number of concessions for English language, qualifications and experience and salary. Some skills concessions apply to most occupations which only require a basic skill level that enables them to complete routine activities and provide solutions to low-level problems, generally having graduated from secondary school or a diploma. Unfortunately, there are no skills concessions for those who would otherwise require greater qualifications.

Far North Queensland (FNQ) DAMA 

Your business can access the Far North Queensland DAMA if you operate within the local government areas of:

  • Cairns;
  • Port Douglas;
  • Atherton;
  • Mareeba; or
  • Cassowary Coast.

You should check the list of occupation types that are eligible for sponsorship. Concessions may also apply to certain occupations for: 

  • English competency;
  • skills and experience; and 
  • salaries. 

The Far North Queensland DAMA also provides access to three occupations not in the standard business sponsorship scheme. These are:

  • farm inspector;
  • farm supervisor; and
  • restaurant supervisor.

Key Takeaways

If your business wants to hire an employee who is not covered by the standard employer sponsored visa programs, you may choose to engage them under a DAMA. These agreements provide access to more overseas workers than the standard skilled migration program. The key benefits of DAMAs for businesses include:

  • a broader range of eligible occupations;
  • possible permanent residency pathways; and
  • the English competency, salary and experience concessions that apply to some occupations.

If you would like legal advice concerning a DAMA, contact LegalVision’s corporate immigration lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

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