Does your farm or agricultural business need overseas workers to help with seasonal demands? Or are you wanting to come to Australia to do farm work? In June 2021, the Government first announced it would introduce a dedicated Agriculture Visa to allow migrants from certain countries to come to Australia for agricultural work that cannot be filled locally. The visa is designed to alleviate labour shortages impacting the agricultural industry, which have reportedly worsened during the pandemic. Here’s what you should know about Australia’s Agriculture Visa and how the Government is establishing the visa in various stages.
When the Government announced it would introduce an Agriculture Visa, it was intended that the new Visa would be made available to citizens from the UK and 10 countries in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region.
Countries in the ASEAN region include:
The visa would allow workers from the UK and the above countries to come to Australia for agricultural seasonal work for three years, with a need to return home for three months each year. It was reported that further countries could be added to this list after extending the visa to ASEAN countries.
In late 2021, the Government announced further details and clarified that the program would gradually be made available in stages– with only approved employers and a small number of workers permitted to use the program in Phase 1. Here are the details announced about the two phases:
On 1 October 2021, Agriculture Minister, David Littleproud announced the below details about the new Agriculture Visa:
The Government has stated that the first arrival of workers under the Agriculture Visa will occur in late 2021 – however, this is subject to quarantine arrangements and the finalisation of bilateral agreements with partner countries. The final program design continues to be developed in consultation with the industry.
The Government is also still finalising details such as how to participate in the program as an employer or worker. You may wish to contact us around mid-2022 to discuss options for this visa once further information becomes available.
Given that details will still need to be finalised, the Government intends for the Pacific Labour Program to remain the key pathway to access workers for the 2021/2022 summer peak harvest season and has doubled the number of Pacific workers to come to Australia by March 2022. That means at this stage, the seasonal worker program is only open to workers who are citizens of and residents in Timor-Leste, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu or Vanuatu.
An extra 12,500 workers will be able to work in Australia under the Pacific Labour Program from August 2021 to March 2022.
Here’s a summary of the next steps and some of the hurdles that could impact the progress of the visa, plus other insights agribusinesses and migrants should know.
The way in which the visa will operate will depend on negotiations with participating countries:
Another factor impacting the visa program is the ability for overseas workers to access flights and quarantine. According to the Government’s media release in August 2021, logistical matters in making the visa operational may take some time to resolve. It states that ‘full conditions [of the agriculture visa] will be developed and implemented over the next three years as the visa is operationalised’.
Many other factors are yet to be confirmed including:
Apart from the soon-to-be-established Agriculture Visa, agribusinesses may have access to:
It is also important to consider that overseas workers coming to Australia are facing expensive flights and delays at this time as caps are in place to limit the number of people that can arrive in the country per State/Territory. A quarantine period may also apply.
The agriculture industry has been one of the hardest hit by international border restrictions. For many years, the industry has been reliant on migrant workers due to ongoing difficulties in sourcing local Australians for work under these positions.
Farmers have been calling for a dedicated agriculture visa since 2016 and unfortunately, border restrictions have only served to worsen labour shortages and increase pressure on agribusinesses.
It is hoped that the newly established Agriculture Visa will provide some much-needed and immediate relief for Australian farmers. Should you require advice on your business’ visa sponsorship options, we encourage you to contact Interstaff’s Registered Migration Agents to discuss your circumstances.
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