Labour Agreements - what is it?

“I am a 49 years old civil engineer. “

“I am a qualified carpenter, but my English level is too low for a permanent visa. “

“I am a qualified cook, but I work in the kitchen of a nursing home. “

“I am a housekeeper in a resort. “

“I am a qualified motor mechanic, but I earn less than $53,900 a year. “

“I was told by an agent that there is no way for me to stay in Australia. Aren’t there any exceptions to the rules?”

In short, the answer is YES, if an Australian business genuinely needs employees like you.

As we know, Australian skilled visas, including the general skilled visas and the employer sponsored visas pathways, were created to help fill job vacancies in Australia where Australian workers are not available.

You probably also know that to be eligible for a skilled visa today, you need to be skilled in an occupation which is listed on the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL), the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL), or the Regional Occupation List (ROL). In addition to being skilled in an eligible occupation, to apply for an employer sponsored visa such as 482, 186 and 494, you also need to meet certain requirements regarding your English level, your qualification and / or the length of your work experience. Your employer needs to meet some requirements too.

In many cases, the General skilled visas (189, 190, 491) practically require even higher English levels, and a combination of a relevant qualification and lengthy work experience.

But some people simply cannot meet these visa requirements, despite already working in an Australian business and despite their employer’s genuine need to employ them for the long term.

Obviously, many Australian businesses are facing this problem when they or their employees do not fit exactly in the criteria for the visa!

This can be a real problem, and this is exactly what labour agreements are designed to fix.

Labour agreements are special agreements drafted by the Department of Home Affairs and Australian regions, industry bodies or organisations. When these agreements are signed by eligible employers, they allow them to sponsor international employees under different arrangement to the standard ones.

At the end, the employees may be granted employer sponsored visas (482/186/494), but they don’t necessarily have to meet the standard requirements for these visas as detailed by law; they have to meet the eligibility criteria as listed in the agreement.

These agreements may allow a wider range of occupations to be sponsored, more settings (e.g. cooks and chefs may not have to work in full service restaurants), lower English requirements, higher age bars, relaxed requirements regarding the qualification or the experience of the applicant, and relaxed criteria regarding the employer’s eligibility to sponsor.

Can you give some examples please?

Thanks to the Far North Queensland Designated Area Migration Agreement, for example, even low-level skill occupations, such as aged or disabled carers, bar attendants, child care workers, commercial housekeepers, and fruit pickers may apply for a temporary work visa. Between the above-mentioned occupations, only the aged or disabled carers, child care workers and the bar attendants may be eligible for a permanent visa 3 years later, but even that is a lot more than what the “standard” visa requirements allow.

And thanks to the labour agreement in the horticulture industry, fork lift drivers, irrigationists, including irrigationsit assistants, which do not have relevant qualification but can demonstrate 2 years of relevant work experience, can apply for a work visa 482.

If it was not for the labour agreements, the aged or disabled carers, bar attendants, child care workers, commercial housekeepers, fruit pickers, fork lift drivers, irrigationists and many others, would not be able to apply for any skilled visa in Australia.

Labour agreements can also allow age concessions. For example, if you thought that a civil engineer cannot apply for the permanent visa 186 after the age of 45, think again! Some labour agreements will enable applicants to apply until they turn 55.

So what should we do next?

If you already have a job offer, you can start by checking if there is already a labour agreement in place for your industry, or if there is a Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) agreement for the region you are working in.

You can check here for existing labour agreements:

For industry labour agreements: https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/employing-and-sponsoring-someone/sponsoring-workers/nominating-a-position/labour-agreements/industry-labour-agreements

For DAMA (region based labour agreements): https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/employing-and-sponsoring-someone/sponsoring-workers/nominating-a-position/labour-agreements/designated-area-migration-agreements

If your skills are not already covered by an industry labour agreement, and there is no DAMA in place for the location of your work, your employer may lodge a request for a company specific labour agreement.

I think I found a suitable agreement! Will it be easy to apply for a visa now?

Having a willing sponsor and a labour agreement in place for your industry or region is a great start. Yet, applying for sponsorship, nomination and visa application can sometimes feel like navigating a minefield. Said to be the country’s second most complex set of laws (after taxation), the already perplexing immigration laws and policies are constantly changing.

Applying to nominate an employee and applying for a visa under a labour agreement stream may involve different steps and incur different costs, depending on the type of the labour agreement and the nominated visa pathway.

To do it right from the beginning, we highly recommend engaging the assistance of an experienced registered migration agent.

Do not hesitate to contact us and to book your consultation with our experts.