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If your business is looking to hire new employees but cannot find a sufficient supply of Australian workers, you may be eligible to engage foreign workers under an industry specific labour agreement. Labour agreements enable you to sponsor skilled overseas workers to come and work for your business when there is a shortage of skills or labour in the Australian labour market. This article outlines the: 

  • existing industry specific labour agreements;
  • common elements and requirements across these industries; and
  • particular details you need to know about each agreement.

Existing Australian Industry Specific Labour Agreements

If your business is engaged in an industry that is covered by an industry specific labour agreement, this may be a viable option to secure a visa for an overseas worker. Industry specific labour agreements consist of terms and conditions that are unique for each industry. There are currently nine industry specific labour agreements, including:

  • dairy;
  • fishing;
  • meat;
  • minister of religion;
  • on-hire
  • pork;
  • restaurant (fine-dining);
  • advertising; and
  • horticultural.

Common Elements for All Industries

There are some common requirements that you will need to fulfil to engage an employee under an industry specific labour agreement, irrespective of which one covers your business. You will need to show that:

  • the employee meets certain English language requirements under the TSS visa subclass 482, or the relevant requirements under the ENS visa subclass 186;
  • the employee is engaged in one of the specified occupations; and
  • you can meet the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT), which is currently $53,900.

Importantly, you can nominate the worker for up to four years.

Dairy Industry

You can only sponsor workers under the dairy industry labour agreement if they are employed in the occupation of ‘senior dairy cattle farm worker’. There is not yet an Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) code for this occupation.

Additionally, there are a range of specific tasks the sponsored worker must complete to be eligible for this position.

The worker must also have certain qualifications and experience, including;

  • Certificate III under the Australian Qualifications Framework;
  • equivalent qualifications and at least three years of recent and relevant work experience; or
  • at least five years of recent and relevant work experience. 

There is a permanent residency pathway open to workers employed under this agreement. You could also sponsor workers through the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) visa (subclass 186) after a three year transition period.

Fishing Industry

The fishing industry labour agreement lets you sponsor skilled workers in the following occupations:

  • deckhand;
  • fishing hand;
  • master fisher;
  • ship’s engineer; 
  • ship’s master; or 
  • ship’s officer.

There are a few other requirements that may apply to you if your prospective employee is a deckhand or fishing hand. This is because they need only demonstrate a low level of English competency to enter these roles. Therefore, you must:

  • provide these workers with initial access to interpreters, install signage and provide training in both English and their native language;
  • employ the workers on a full-time basis; and
  • pay them at least the TSMIT, or a percentage of the catch as would be paid to an Australian doing equivalent work.

There is no permanent residency pathway available under this scheme

Meat Industry

If you wish to sponsor a worker under the meat industry labour agreement, you need to meet the following requirements:

  • your worker must be under the occupation of ‘skilled meat worker’;
  • your worker must carry out the tasks of a skilled meat worker, including the duties of a slaughterer and meat boner and slicer;
  • workers who do not meet the English language requirements can be considered to have sufficient English for this occupation if they demonstrate a certain test score or are a current subclass 457 visa holder and did not have to provide evidence of English language proficiency at the time of receiving their subclass 457 visa; and
  • you must employ the worker on a full-time basis.

Further, your employees must have:

  • been assessed by a National Meat Industry Training Advisory Council (MINTRAC) registered assessor, or an assessor approved by the Australian Government
  • three years of skilled work experience at a meat processing establishment; or
  • been working in Australia on a subclass 457 or Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa at an Australian meat processing establishment for the previous nine months.

There is a permanent residency pathway under this visa. You can also sponsor workers through the ENS visa (subclass 186) after a three year transition period.

Minister of Religion

If you wish to sponsor a worker as a minister of religion, there are certain requirements that both you and your worker must meet. These include that:

  • they have a senior leadership role in your organisation or be a religious assistant;
  • your business is defined as a ‘religious organisation’ in the Migration Regulations.
  • your organisation has a charitable status;
  • if the person will be sponsored under the ENS, they may be assessed as holding sufficient English language proficiency through the (IELTS); and
  • they meet the qualifications and requirements for a Minister of Religion or Religious Assistant.

There is a permanent residency pathway under this visa. You can also sponsor workers through the ENS visa (subclass 186) after a three year transition period. An immediate permanent pathway has also been added for those applicants who hold the most senior Minister of Religion position in the religious organisation in Australia, or state or territory your organisation is in. Applicants for the ENS visa must be no more than 60 years of age at the time of applying.


The on-hire industry labour agreement allows you to sponsor foreign employees on a temporary basis for certain occupations. You can assign the employee to work for a third party, but you must remain as a direct employer. The requirements include that:

  • you sponsor workers for an occupation on the list of eligible skilled occupations for the TSS visa program;
  • your workers complete the tasks for the ANZSCO job you nominate;
  • the worker must meet the skills, qualifications and experience requirements of the Temporary Skill Shortage visa (subclass 482);
  • you employ the worker on a full-time basis;
  • you pay the employee directly, not any third parties;
  • the annual earnings for the full-time employee is above $65,000;
  • you show evidence of labour market testing; and 
  • you must also provide a signed copy of the contracts between you and the worker and the third party they will work for.

There are no permanent resident pathways under this visa.

Pork Industry

The pork industry labour agreement requires:

  • you to sponsor of workers in the occupation of senior stock person (piggery);
  • your sponsored workers to complete certain tasks for the occupation of senior stock person (piggery); and
  • the worker obtains a Certificate III in Agriculture and has three years of work experience or, if they do not have the certificate, then they have five years of work experience.

There is a permanent residency pathway under this visa. You can also sponsor workers through the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) visa (subclass 186) after a three year transition period.

Restaurant (Fine Dining) Industry

To sponsor a worker under the restaurant (fine dining) industry labour agreement, you will be sponsoring someone to work as a cook, chef, or trade waiter in an Australian premium quality fine-dining restaurant.

To qualify as a fine-dining restaurant, your restaurant needs certain attributes, including:

  • silver service;
  • employing a maître d’;
  • uniformed, highly trained staff;
  • industry recognition and awards;
  • visually appealing quality food at premium prices;
  • dress code;
  • quality websites; and
  • reservation requirements.

Chefs or cooks you sponsor must complete the tasks for the occupation of chefs or cooks as outlined in ANZSCO. Trade waiters must complete the tasks of the ANZSCO occupation of ‘waiter’ and certain duties as outlined under the Restaurant Industry Award 2010.

Further, the earnings of the worker can be equal to, or greater than, 90% of the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold.

There is a permanent residency pathway under this visa. You can also sponsor workers through the ENS visa (subclass 186) after a three year transition period.

Advertising Industry

The advertising industry labour agreement has a number of requirements, including:

  • you can only nominate the worker in the following occupations as an advertising specialist, graphic designer, copywriter, multimedia designer or web developer;
  • you have endorsement from the Media Federation of Australia (MFA) and The Communications Council (TCC);
  • the employee receives a minimum payment of AUD$85,000;
  • you employ the person from overseas on a full-time basis;
  • the nominee has at least three years relevant work experience if being nominated for a TSS visa or six years work experience if being nominated for an ENS visa; and 
  • You have conducted labour market testing.

There is a permanent residency pathway under this visa. You can also sponsor workers through the ENS visa after a three year transition period. Applicants for the ENS must be no more than 45 years of age at time of application.

Horticulture Industry

The horticulture industry labour agreement requires you nominating a worker in one of the 31 approved occupations. Afterwards, you have access to concessions such as:

  • a discount of up to 10% on the TSMIT where it is demonstrated that equivalent Australian workers do not receive annual earnings of $53,900;
  • a broader range of monetary payments and non-monetary benefits to count as guaranteed earnings; and
  • different English concessions apply depending on which visa the worker will be applying for.

You can sponsor the workers for permanent residency either:

  • under the Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (SESR) (subclass 494) visa program with a permanent pathway to a Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa (subclass 191) available after three year; or 
  • under the ENS (subclass 186) visa program after a three or four year transitional period on a TSS visa.

Overseas workers can be up to 50 years of age when they apply for an ENS or SESR visa.

Key Takeaways

An industry labour agreement may be a sensible option for your business, depending on your industry and the occupations of your workers. There are strict requirements for each agreement, including:

  • English language requirements;
  • skills and qualifications; and
  • minimum salary requirements.

The benefits of having this agreement in place are that you can nominate employees for periods of up to four years, and most have permanent residency pathways. If you have any questions about sponsoring foreign workers, contact LegalVision’s corporate immigration lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.


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