SOUTHERN MAN IMMIGRATION BLOG

DAMA Visa

June 5, 2024
Myer Lipschitz

The DAMA Visa represents a significant step in Australia’s regional immigration policy, designed to tackle specific labour shortages and enhance local economies. This temporary visa programme, formally known as the Designated Area Migration Agreement, enables employers in designated regions to sponsor overseas workers. These agreements are tailored to the needs of individual areas, allowing regions to address their unique economic and demographic challenges.

Each DAMA is negotiated between the Australian government and regional or state authorities. It specifies the types of occupations eligible for sponsorship and provides concessions on criteria such as language proficiency or salary levels, which are typically stricter under standard immigration schemes. The primary goal is to support businesses struggling to find Australian workers, thereby ensuring sustained regional growth and community enhancement.

The DAMA offers pathways to permanent residency for visa holders, reflecting a long-term approach to population planning. These pathways acknowledge the contribution of migrants to regional communities and aim to foster a stable and integrated workforce. The introduction of the DAMA visa in Australia has been met with significant attention from various sectors, signalling potential shifts in the country’s workforce landscape.

Count on the leading immigration adviser, Immagine Immigration, to guide you through the DAMA visa’s requirements, application process, and included rights & concessions.

Migrate to Australia

Our immigration lawyers and registered migration agents in Melbourne will be able to find you the best visa for your unique situation. You’ll be in good hands.

Overview of DAMA

What Is a DAMA Visa?

The Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) is a framework between the Australian Government and designated regional areas to address their unique workforce shortages. Each DAMA is a type of Labour Agreement, granting regional employers the ability to sponsor overseas workers for a Temporary Skill Shortage visa (Subclass 482). This pathway is designed to aid in filling nominated occupations which are not catered for by the standard skilled migration programmes.

Why apply through a DAMA Pathway?

Many candidates will make an appliCation via a Temporary Skilled Shortage Subclass 482 visa. However, this visa is not available to many people who are in semiskilled occupations or occupations that simply do not appear on any of the occupations lists. The advantage of a DAMA pathway includes:

  • Age limit concessions for permanent residency. Currently the age limit for a permanent residence Visa under most skilled programs is 45, however, a company sponsoring someone under a DAMA can apply for permanent residence up to the age of 55.
  • Salary concessions. For some industries, they will not pay a minimum salary that is above $73,000 per year. Some industries will have a concession to pay a lower amount and still be able to nominate a candidate for a temporary, and eventually a permanent residence Visa.
  • Certain occupations made available. Under the general skilled migration program and standard employer sponsored program, there are a number of occupations that aren’t available for sponsorship, despite the huge demand for these skills and workers. The company can nominate certain occupations under a DAMA pathway.
  • English-language concessions. In some cases, candidates who cannot meet the minimum English level may be able to get a concession.
Overview of DAMA Visa
Overview of DAMA Visa
What Is a DAMA Visa? The Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) is a framework allowing regional employers to sponsor overseas workers to address workforce shortages.
DAMA Visa Requirements and Criteria Eligibility includes being under 45 years of age, meeting skills assessments, having a job offer in a nominated occupation, and passing health and character checks.
The Role of Employers in DAMA Employers must become approved sponsors, demonstrate local recruitment efforts, and secure endorsement of employment agreements by the relevant regional authority.
Specific DAMA Regions and Agreements Regions with active DAMA agreements include South Australia, Northern Territory, Far North Queensland, Orana, Pilbara, Townsville, East Kimberley, Great South Coast, South West, The Goldfields, and Goulburn Valley.
Understanding DAMA Agreements DAMA agreements contain concessions and establish the terms for employers to recruit overseas workers, tailored to specific regional labour market needs.
DAMA Visa Application Process Applicants must identify eligibility, be nominated by an employer with a Labour Agreement under DAMA, gather documents, submit an application, and await a decision.
Rights and Concessions DAMA Visa provides employment and residency rights, age and English language concessions, and flexibility for employers and employees in regional Australia.

DAMA Visa Requirements and Criteria

Eligibility for a DAMA visa hinges on several requirements:

  • DAMA Visa Age Limit

Candidates must be under a specific age, typically under 55 years.

  • Skills

Applicants meet the skills assessment and English language benchmarks.

  • Nominated Occupation

The visa applicant must have a job offer in a nominated occupation which aligns with the skills shortages listed within the DAMA.

  • Health and Character Checks

Additionally, candidates are subject to health and character checks before approval.

The Role of Employers in DAMA

Employers have a pivotal role in the DAMA scheme. They are responsible for becoming approved sponsors and demonstrating their commitment to employment and training of Australian citizens, as well as proving genuine efforts to recruit locally. Once employer sponsorship is secured, they can nominate overseas workers whose occupations and skills are required for their region’s workforce. The endorsement of these employment agreements by the relevant regional authority is essential for the DAMA visa to be granted.

Specific DAMA Regions and Agreements

The Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMA) are tailored to address the specific skilled labour needs of regions across Australia. Each DAMA region has distinct agreements, reflecting local economic and labour circumstances.

Regions Covered by DAMA

Australia has engaged in numerous DAMA agreements with different areas, focusing on regions that are experiencing acute labour shortages. Some of the key regions with active DAMA agreements are:

  • South Australia: Incorporating the Adelaide City Technology and Innovation Advancement agreement to drive local growth in tech sectors.
  • Northern Territory: Pioneering DAMA agreements to cater to a broad array of employment sectors.
  • Far North Queensland: Specifically targeting gaps in the labour market in the tropical north.
  • Orana: Located in New South Wales, addressing shortages in regional industries.
  • Pilbara: In Western Australia, with emphasis on the mining and resource sectors.
  • Townsville: Addressing the labour needs in North Queensland’s diverse economy.
  • East Kimberley: Also situated in Western Australia, focusing on agriculture, tourism and hospitality.
  • Great South Coast: Located in Victoria, supporting the dairy farming and other agricultural sectors.
  • South West: Spanning areas in Western Australia, with a variety of industry focuses.
  • The Goldfields: Another Western Australian initiative, designed to meet mining industry skill shortages.
  • Goulburn Valley: Found in Victoria with a focus on manufacturing, agriculture and food processing.
A person working at a dairy farm

Understanding DAMA Agreements

DAMA agreements are essentially labour agreements between the Australian Government and designated area representatives, crafted to address the labour market needs of specific regions. Each agreement contains:

  • Concessions: These can include English language requirements and salary concessions, which are designed to make it easier for businesses to fill skill shortages.
  • Labour Agreements: Establish the terms under which employers in the designated regions may recruit overseas workers.

Such agreements allow regions like South Australia Regional and others to attract skilled workers in sectors where Australian workers are not available. They are a pivotal part of Australia’s approach to regional development and population policy.

DAMA Visa Application Process

The DAMA Visa application process is a structured pathway that involves precise steps and adheres to specific visa subclass requirements.

Steps for Applying for a DAMA Visa

  1. Identify Eligibility: The applicant must ensure they meet the eligibility criteria set by the Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA).
  2. Labour Agreement: Employers in designated areas must have a Labour Agreement with the Australian Government under the DAMA.
  3. Nomination: The employer must nominate the applicant for a position under the DAMA.
  4. Documentation: Applicants gather necessary documents concerning identity, skills, and work experience.
  5. Application Submission: Complete and submit the visa application to the Department of Home Affairs, accompanied by the required documentation.
  6. Await Decision: After submission, the applicant must wait for the assessment and decision from the Department of Home Affairs.

Comparative Summary Table – Visa Comparisons
Feature DAMA Visa Subclass 482 Visa Subclass 494 Visa Subclass 186 ENS Visa
Visa Type Work Visa (Temporary) Temporary Work Visa Regional Provisional Work Visa Permanent Work Visa
Designation Designated areas Anywhere in Australia Regional Australia Anywhere in Australia
Duration Up to 4 years, depending on the agreement Short-term stream: 2 years; Medium-term stream: 4 years 5 years Permanent
Pathway to Permanent Residency Possible after working in the region for a set period Yes, if eligible Yes, after living and working in the region for 3 years Directly grants permanent residency
Employer Sponsorship Required Yes Yes Yes Yes
Occupation List Specific to the agreement for a designated area STSOL or MLTSSL Regional Occupation List MLTSSL and additional occupations for regional employers
Labour Market Testing Required Yes, but may vary by agreement Yes Yes Yes, unless exempted
English Language Requirements Concessions may apply depending on the agreement Required, level varies by stream Required Required
Salary Must meet the market salary rate and can include concessions Must meet TSMIT Must meet AMSR Must meet the market salary rate
Skill Level Varies, may include lower-skilled occupations Generally higher-skilled occupations Generally higher-skilled occupations Generally higher-skilled occupations
Age Limit Yes, usually under 45 years of age Yes, usually under 45 years of age Yes, usually under 45 years of age Yes, usually under 45 years of age

Rights and Concessions

The DAMA Visa provides distinct advantages for both employers and employees in Australia, offering a balance between work rights, residency, and occupational flexibility.

Employment and Residency Rights

Employers can sponsor skilled and semi-skilled overseas workers under the Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) for a temporary skill shortage visa or an employer-sponsored visa within the skilled migration program. This empowers employees to live and work in Australia. Candidates may also have pathways to permanent residency, dependent on the specific DAMA.

  • Skilled Workers: Entitled to a variety of visas including employer-sponsored options.
  • Semi-skilled Overseas Workers: Can apply under certain DAMA agreements, which are generally inaccessible through standard skilled migration programmes.
  • Age Concession: Some DAMAs provide age concessions for applicants, expanding opportunities.
  • English Language Requirements: Depending on the DAMA, concessions on English language proficiency may be offered, making it accessible to a broader range of applicants.
Two people working in manufacturing

Concessions and Flexibility for Employers and Employees

DAMA arrangements grant flexibility to employers, especially in negotiating a labour agreement request. They can respond to unique regional labour market conditions by hiring workers that are not available locally.

  • Flexibility for Employers: They can negotiate terms such as salary rates, English language requirements, and experience thresholds.
  • Concessions for Employees: May include reduced fees and age requirements relative to standard visa options.
  • Migration Agent: Employers and employees might engage a migration agent to navigate the complexities of the DAMA.

These concessions offer both parties the opportunity to tailor visa conditions to reflect the realities of their specific situation, improving the alignment of immigration strategies with the demands of Australia’s regional labour markets.

Migrate to Australia

Our immigration lawyers and registered migration agents in Melbourne will be able to find you the best visa for your unique situation. You’ll be in good hands.

Explore the DAMA Visa with Immagine Immigration

Ready to explore more details about the DAMA visa in Australia? Contact our Registered Migration Agents in Melbourne to schedule a consultation.

A Comparison of Australian Work Visa Programs and Subclasses

  • Subclass 482 Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS): Allows employers to address labour shortages by bringing in genuinely skilled workers where employers can’t source an appropriately skilled Australian worker.
    • Duration: Up to 4 years
    • Streams: Short-term, Medium-term, and Labour Agreement stream

  • Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional): For skilled workers nominated by an employer in regional Australia.
    • Duration: 5-year visa with a pathway to permanent residency
    • Requirements: Must live, work, and study in regional Australia

  • Subclass 186 Employer Nominated Scheme (ENS): A permanent visa for skilled workers. It requires a nomination by an Australian employer.
    • Types: Direct Entry, Labour Agreement, and Temporary Residence Transition streams
    • Condition: Applicants usually must have worked for three years in their skilled occupation

Each subclass has its specific criteria and processes as detailed by the Department of Home Affairs. Applicants should review these with their potential employers and ensure compliance with all requirements for a successful application. The Australian Government’s initiatives, such as the DAMA, are tailored to benefit both the regional economies and the skilled workers involved.

Looking for comprehensive guides on various other types of Australian work visas? Read our other articles below.  

myer lipschitz

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Myer Lipschitz

Myer Lipschitz was born in Johannesburg and is a graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand. In 1985 he was conferred the degree Bachelor of Laws. Myer completed his Articles of Clerkship with Ivor Trackman, Attorneys and was admitted as an Attorney to the Supreme Court of South Africa in 1988. Myer immigrated to New Zealand in 1989 and was admitted to practice law in New Zealand as a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand...

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