DAMA Australia – Application Process in 2022 – Key Facts
DAMA Australia Designated Area Migration Agreement is a skilled migration program that is tailored to the occupational needs of a specific region. It differs in many ways from standard skilled migration pathways, providing more flexibility and certainty for both Australian employers and foreign workers.
The Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) is one of the most popular skilled migration programs used by Australian regional employers. The program allows the employers to access a greater pool of overseas workers and offer visa sponsorship which gives the foreign workers the right to remain in Australia for an extended period. We have detailed each DAMA Australia agreement available as of today in a previous article whitch can be read here.
The Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) is an agreement made between state, regional and territory authorities, and the Australian federal government to enable foreign workers to come into regional parts of Australia to work.
As mentioned above, since it has been implemented, the various Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMA) have been assisting employers to access a greater pool of overseas workers to address critical skill shortages, where positions cannot be filled from the Australian labour market.
Skill shortages result in a general stagnation of economic growth across Australia due to employers having to limit services or decline new work.
One of the key aspects that are negotiated between the Government and the Designated Area representative is in the nominated occupations that will be accessed by the overseas workers. DAMA nominated occupations may differ on region and depend on the skill shortage that needs to be fulfilled or even other occupations that are key industries within certain areas of Australia.
DAMA Nominated Occupations – Concessions under DAMA program
There can also be certain concessions that are made on applying for certain positions that may not typically exist in other visa subclasses or agreements, thereby ensuring that applicants that may not normally be eligible in other circumstances may in-fact still be able to apply for certain positions.
The concessions that are normally allowed, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic, have been related to two separate areas. The first is in regards to age. Most positions will only have a limit of 45 years of age, but in cases of particularly skilled applicants that are fulfilling a niche position this might be upgraded to allow for those older than 45 to be eligible for permanent residency.
The second is in the realm of English language capabilities. While English language comprehension is never completely disregarded, there are sometimes concessions that are made regarding English language depending on what occupation that an applicant is wishing to go for within the DAMA Australia agreements list.
Identifying the differences in the various occupations is an important aspect, as previously stated different DAMAs are known to exemplify different professions. Different regions have different requirements, or different occupations that are in higher demand compared to others. It is for this reason that they are created in conjunction with regional representatives, thereby ensuring that the occupations that are most in need are given priority in finding those to fill positions of importance.
How to apply for Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA)
If an Australia employer/sponsor wishes to apply for a DAMA Australia, the employer must first lodge an application with the local Designated Area Representative to ensure that they meet all the regional requirements. This application is called Endorsement because the Designated Area Representative must endorse the employers seeking to access the program.
Once the employer has received the endorsement, the Designated Area Representative sends a copy of the endorsement letter to the Department of Home Affairs and the employer can proceed to the next stage.
The business sponsor will be able to lodge a labour agreement application. At this stage, they will need to prove the need for overseas skilled and semi-skilled workers through labour market testing. This is to showcase that the employer has made every attempt to hire Australian applicants first and foremost, ensuring that the position being filled was not done at the detriment of an Australian that was looked over or retrenched.
This is because hiring Australian citizens and permanent residents is the priority, and the employer must have made every attempt possible in order to hire locally. Thereby proving that the DAMA hiring process is the only method that they have left available through which they can fill certain positions within their business; provided these positions also fit in with what’s offered under the DAMA program.
These individual DAMA labour agreements are valid for a period of 5 years, remaining in effect throughout this duration and enabling employers to hire overseas workers whilst it is in effect.
If an applicant wishes to apply for a DAMA Australia occupation, this will regularly be done through the subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage Visa. A subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored (Regional) may also be used depending on business needs, qualification, and work experience requirements.
Some DAMA programs allow transition to permanent residency after the visa holder has worked for minimum 3 years on the sponsored visa or another option is to apply for subclass 186 Employer Nominated Scheme Visa, the Labour Agreement stream.
In summary the DAMA Application process is:
- application to receive endorsement from the regional area representative to access Labour agreement under DAMA
- receive endorsement and forward the endorsement letter to the Department of Home Affairs
- employer’s application for Labour Agreement
- identification of overseas worker by employer
- overseas worker to apply for skills assessment (if required by the nominated occupation)
- lodgement of applicants’ nomination
- lodgement of visa application
There is no guarantee that the Australian Government will grant a Labour Agreement even with the regional area endorsement. Lodgement fees apply to endorsement, business nomination and 482 visa applications.
The role of an experience migration specialist in the complex Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) process
For older applicants, applicants with a low level of English or applicants with limited work experience, it is important to understand the requirements for each occupation and what concessions are available under the DAMA Australia program.
As previously stated, nominated occupations can have differences in age, language and/or skills requirements. Always double check the preferred DAMA’s nominated occupations list to make sure that the concession is available in the region of interest, and it is applicable to the selected nominated occupation.
In all other aspects, the approval process for the visa applicant will match with the application for the normal visa subclass type. Ensuring that the applicant meets the criteria for the visa or the position that they are applying for is paramount and making sure that they are eligible for concessions is an important part of applying for a skilled work visa under DAMA.
There are presently twelve DAMA’s active within Australia throughout the various states and territories. Each program has its own requirements. The timeframe to complete a DAMA process is 4-6 months if not longer therefore it is extremely important to lodge complete and correct applications for endorsement, for labour agreement, for skills assessment, for businss nomination and for the visa application.
It’s good for you to know the regional area
In applying for a skilled work visa under a DAMA Australia program, it is a good idea to research the region, the location of employment, the facilities before committing to the sponsorship.
Australia is a diverse country with many differences. Some regions may have access to more coastal areas, while others may be more traditionally rural in what surroundings are like. It is therefore important for the overseas worker to understand if the area within which he/she will be moving to work for the DAMA employer and in the DAMA Australia occupation is going to be suitable for his/her needs outside of simply work.
For a detailed assessment of the employer and overseas worker’ s eligibility to apply under a Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA), contact our team of experienced registered migration agents in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia by completing our visa questionnaire here.