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The Australian Government has announced the introduction of Regional Migration Agreements (RMAs)—a new temporary skilled migration initiative to help address labour shortages in regional Australia.
The program is designed to help regions impacted by resource projects or in remote areas. It will also help local employers to sponsor workers from outside Australia where they have a genuine need for labour assistance, while ensuring Australian workers remain the first choice. The agreements will have a strong focus on fostering training initiatives for Australians.
What is a Regional Migration Agreement?
An RMA is an agreement between the Australian Government and a state or territory government or local council.
RMAs will establish the process for the sponsorship of workers from outside Australia in that location, including eligible occupations, the number of workers and the local training obligations.
The RMA program will act as an overarching arrangement under which employers will sign individual labour agreements. This will ensure that the employers are responsible for sponsorship obligations.
See: Regional Migration Agreements
Workers from outside Australia who are sponsored under an RMA will need to apply for Temporary Business (subclass 457) visas.
See: Fact Sheet 48b – Temporary Business (Subclass 457) Visa
What regions are eligible for the RMA program?
The program is designed to help regions that are in remote areas and have difficulty attracting Australian skills and labour.
It is available to respond to critical short-term labour needs such as infrastructure projects, or where there is a lack of regional economic growth due to the inability to fill vacancies with Australian workers.
To ensure the program targets growing regions that have existing workforce strategies to assist Australians into jobs, regions will need to demonstrate a downward trend in unemployment, a high labour market participation rate and growth in employment over the previous two years.
Regions that have a population of under 150 000 will be eligible for the program. Proposals for an RMA will need to be endorsed by the relevant state or territory government in order to be eligible for the program.
What occupations are available under the RMA program?
All occupations allowed under the standard 457 program will be available under the RMA program. In addition, the program provides access to specialised semi-skilled occupations where a need can be established. Semi-skilled occupations will need to:
- be relevant to identified key industries in the regional area
- have a minimum skill level four as defined by ANZSCO
- require minimum Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) Certificate III and three years’ experience or an AQF Certificate II and five years experience or skill level equivalent
- if occupations are not defined by ANZSCO, evidence of standard duties performed under the position and justification as to how these can be considered as equivalent to a skill level four.
Specialised semi-skilled occupations will be limited to positions relevant to key regional industries to allow mobility between employers for overseas workers.
How do regions apply for an RMA?
Regions seeking an RMA will need to make a submission to the department, demonstrating why an RMA is needed in the region.
When can regions apply for an RMA?
The department will begin accepting applications for RMAs following the release of detailed program submission guidelines.
What will be required as part of the submission?
There are six core criteria that will need to be covered in any RMA submission. These are:
- an evidence base supporting the need for additional labour in the regional area
- a regional training plan including a local regional training fund
- a regional infrastructure scan conducted by the relevant state or territory government
- agreement to provide information to migrants about workplace rights
- agreement to provide information to migrants about local community services and activities that will assist with settlement
- a commitment to undertake review activities as required by the terms of the RMA.
The evidence base will consist of labour market analysis that demonstrates there are current or anticipated skills and labour shortages in the region and that these shortages cannot be filled by Australian workers.
Regional training plan
Regions will need to develop a regional training plan and associated local training fund to foster investment in the training of Australians to adopt local opportunities.
Regional infrastructure scan
The infrastructure scan will consider the availability of local infrastructure to support additional migration. The scan will be undertaken by the relevant state or territory government and highlight the availability of rental housing, education and medical services.
Regional Migration Reference Group
A Regional Migration Reference Group must be established as a local representative body tasked with the ongoing review and oversight of the RMA. The reference group will be responsible for considering the effectiveness of the program and any changes in the labour market during the course of the RMA. The reference group should consist of representatives of local businesses, industry groups, unions and other interested parties.
An RMA should have the support and understanding of the local community. Consultation on the development of an RMA should occur with local stakeholders such as employers, industry and community groups and unions.
Information regarding the subclass 457 visa program is available.
See: Booklet 9–Temporary Business (Long Stay) (Subclass 457) Visa (630KB PDF file)
Information regarding Enterprise Migration Agreements is available.
See: Fact Sheet 48a Enterprise Migration Agreements
Further information is available on the department's website.
The department also operates a national general enquiries line.
Telephone: 131 881
Hours of operation: Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm. Recorded information is available outside these hours.
Fact Sheet 48c. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Canberra.
Last reviewed September 2012.
© Commonwealth of Australia 2011.