Unlocking Opportunity: Australian Visa Options for Lower Skilled Workers

Unlocking opportunity: Australian visa options for lower skilled workers
Unlocking opportunity: Australian visa options for lower skilled workers

Australia, with its robust economy, aging population and diverse workforce demands, is seeing increased shortages in lower skilled workers in fields such as meat processing, agriculture and aged care, and other essential services.

The biggest issue our clients are facing when it comes to these shortages,  is that our traditional employer sponsored visas do not cover off on these occupations currently (bring on the migration reform!) so we must find alternate visa pathways. While we are waiting for the new Migration Strategy to be rolled out by the end of the year, we must make do with the options we currently have . In this article, we delve into three significant visa options tailored for lower skilled workers: Labour Agreements, Pacific Labour Mobility (PALM) Visas, and Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMAs). All of these options can take some time, so be prepared for a wait before you have your labour onshore.

Labour Agreements: Bridging the Skills Gap

Labour Agreements serve as a bridge between Australian employers facing genuine skill shortages and overseas workers with the requisite skills. These agreements are often negotiated between the Australian government and specific industries or employers, outlining the terms and conditions under which foreign workers can be employed.

For lower skilled workers, Labour Agreements provide an avenue to access employment opportunities in sectors facing acute shortages. Industries such as meat processing, agriculture, and aged care have historically relied on these agreements to address their workforce needs. Under these agreements, employers can sponsor workers on temporary or permanent visas, subject to meeting specific eligibility criteria and labour market testing requirements.

In particular the Aged Care Labour Agreements have been very slow to start, with many approvals coming late 2023 and early 2024, and we now only have approximately 35 agreements in place across Australia. It’s been published that Australia will be facing a shortage of at least 110,000 direct aged care workers in the next decade so this is an area that migration reform will focus on.

Pacific Labour Mobility (PALM) Visas: Strengthening Regional Ties

PALM Visas, an initiative aimed at fostering closer ties between Australia and Pacific Island countries, offer opportunities for citizens of eligible Pacific nations to work in Australia temporarily. While these visas primarily target seasonal agricultural workers, they also cater to lower skilled workers in other sectors, including meat processing and personal care assistance. We are hearing that in aged care, the PALM workers make such an impact that our elderly love their care and kindness, and don’t want to then to leave at the end of their visa! Unfortunately they do have to return home as per the agreements signed with their home countries.

PALM Visas operate under bilateral agreements between Australia and participating Pacific Island nations, facilitating the movement of workers to address seasonal labour demands. These visas not only provide employment opportunities but also contribute to skill development and economic growth in the Pacific region. For lower skilled workers, PALM Visas offer a chance to gain valuable work experience in Australia while supporting their families (and often villages!) back home.

Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMAs): Tailoring Solutions for Regional Needs

DAMAs are regionally specific migration agreements designed to address unique labour market challenges faced by specific areas within Australia. These agreements allow designated regions to sponsor skilled and semi-skilled workers for positions that cannot be filled by the local workforce. While DAMAs predominantly target skilled occupations, they also accommodate lower skilled workers in industries vital to regional economies. This is a good option for those over 45 that would like to work towards permanent residency.

For lower skilled workers employed in meat processing, agriculture,  aged care facilities, and other regional industries, DAMAs offer a pathway to temporary or permanent residency. By working closely with local employers and communities, DAMAs ensure that the visa program aligns with the socio-economic needs of the region while providing opportunities for overseas workers to contribute to local economies and communities.

Conclusion: Embracing Opportunities

Navigating the Australian visa system as a lower skilled worker may seem complex, but with the right knowledge and guidance, doors of opportunity can swing wide open. Labour Agreements, PALM Visas, and DAMAs serve as vital pathways for individuals seeking employment in sectors critical to Australia’s economy. Australia’s new Migration Strategy talks to addressing these key skills with occupation lists being revamped, so we might have some different options available  by the end of 2024!


If you are looking at sending staff to Australia, want to clarify the information in this article, or for any other queries regarding visas, get in touch with Lisa Takis, Immigration Specialist, Visa Executive.


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