Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA); a new pathway towards your Australian Visa and Permanent Residency

Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA); a new pathway towards your Australian Visa and Permanent Residency

Acquiring a working visa for Australia can often be a long, expensive and difficult task, regardless of the visa category you are attempting to acquire. Whether the occupation is on the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL), the Short-term skilled Occupation List (STSOL) or the Regional Occupation List (ROL), the requirements on English capacity, age and skill qualifications will often prevent a visa being granted, particularly if you are over 45. Furthermore, if your plan is to gain permanent residency in Australia then these requirements will become even stricter.

What is a DAMA Agreement?

A DAMA is a 5 year federal agreement between the Commonwealth government and a regional authority to enable concessions on skilled migration to fill gaps in the workforce.

The regional authority can vary from a local or shire council, to a city mayor’s office, to a regional management authority, and even a state or territory government. 

This regional authority will then work with the home affairs ministry, local businesses and employers to set up the terms of the agreement, determine which occupations will be contained in the DAMA as well as receiving and acting on feedback from businesses that will be a part of the DAMA by accepting successful applicants. Each DAMA will reflect the needs of the area they operate within and as a result are all deeply varied. 

Apart from being a brilliant example of cooperation between federal, state and local governments, the DAMA offers the most benefit to those looking to apply. Successful DAMA applicants will be given security and certainty in the form of a 5-year employment contract that offers a pathway towards permanent residency after 3 years. 

DAMA Agreement Concessions

The greatest benefit of the DAMA comes in the concessions offered. MLTSSL, STSOL AND ROL visas are available to those under the age of 45 with an internationally recognized qualification and strong English skills. For most positions a much lower English competency score is required. For positions that usually require a qualification, for a DAMA this requirement can be satisfied through work experience alone whether attained internationally or in Australia.

The age concessions in particular make DAMAs particularly attractive for older applicants whose qualifications may be out of date and who may be over 45.

For a DAMA generally the age limit is pushed up to 55 years old for jobs of skill categories 1-4 and 50 years old for category 5.

Keep in mind, if you are looking to get your permanent residency you will need to have spent 3 years in Australia working before turning 55 or 50 respectively.

These concessions make DAMAs one of the best options for visa applicants who otherwise wouldn’t be capable of fulfilling the criteria for a skilled work visa. Equally as a tool for bolstering lacking regional workforces and targeted migration the DAMA is particularly attractive.

Map of the 12 DAMAs in place across Australia.

A Federal Instrument driving local and regional change

As mentioned the DAMA is an agreement between the Australian Government and a regional authority to create a highway for skilled migration of a certain kind into a specified geographic area. Only the federal government, under the Australian constitution, has the power to make laws regarding migration, hence the involvement of the Federal government into such regional affairs. 

It should be noted however that while this is a Federal policy, it isn’t a top down dictation of policy as might be expected when a national government interferes in local and regional matters. The content of each DAMA is negotiated by the regional authority with the federal authority before the DAMA is set up then once in operation they officially meet once per year to evaluate the DAMAs efficacy and to decide whether to add or remove occupations from the DAMAs occupation list. The federal authority is generally from the Home Affairs ministry.

As a result DAMAs are extremely fluid in their existence, regularly being evaluated and changed, requiring constant attention from migration law offices, potential applicants and the regional authority seeking to shore up workforce shortages. They are capable of both responding specifically to local workforce shortages while still aligning with the national interest in migration. They are a strong tool for governments to strengthen local workforces yet arguably have been underutilized since their introduction in 2015. 

Some requirements on participating businesses may explain this; requiring businesses to prioritize local workers as well as requiring that the businesses reasonably proves they attempted to find local workers before accepting a DAMA agreement seeming more of a hassle than it's worth, disincentivizing businesses from participating in the scheme. More simply this may be a result of lack of education and awareness around DAMAs, something the federal government should considering combatting, particularly if local businesses aren’t willing to participate. 

As such it is recommended that more DAMAs be established and more local authorities be made aware of their potential. For instance the Murray Darling Basin Authority, a government agency that manages the critically important Murray Darling Basin which spans across four different states could utilize a DAMA agreement to attract the best international environmental scientists and workers while equally strengthening eastern Australia’s economic and agricultural future while keeping us competitive internationally in terms of food production. The potential uses for DAMAs are encouragingly broad.

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Not all DAMA’s are built the same

There are currently 12 DAMAs in place across Australia.

Some of these DAMAs are much more specific regarding positions and different skill sets needed. For instance the Adelaide City DAMA targets highly skilled technical researchers and the Goldfields-Esperance DAMA wants to attract mining and agricultural employees. Meanwhile the South-West WA DAMA not only offers many more different industries to choose from, each occupation is broken down much more. For example, where the Goldfields-Esperance DAMA only offers a chef position whereas South West WA DAMA has multiple hospitality positions; chef, restaurant manager, waiters/waitresses, pastry chef, baker and more; resulting in more applications and workers.

By being specific with their varied need for employees, the South West WA has had greater success in both attracting migrant employment and having DAMA Visa applications accepted at a greater rate. The DAMA can then be bolstered by having the occupations added to a state’s migration occupation list, siphoning interest in migration to the state into specific areas of the state in urgent demand of skilled workers.

When you are looking for a position to apply to it is well worthwhile to look through the occupations list for all 12 DAMAs currently in place across Australia, not just finding a possible position and stopping your search. Not only is there extreme geographical variability between the different DAMAs, the different regional authorities and local businesses individually negotiate their DAMAs terms with the Australian Government. 

As a result each DAMA should be viewed as nuanced, despite the overall consistency in purpose and operation. Each DAMA offers their own specific list of occupations as well as a varying sophistication in how the DAMA is set up, usually a reflection of how well the regional authority has planned out and structured their DAMA. A DAMA with a broader selection of jobs within a single field reflects the greater planning and thought that these regional authorities put into their DAMA by attempting to open up multiple pathways for similar positions. This translates into a greater success chance for applications coming before migration authorities.

Current DAMAs and their occupation lists

If you are interested in whether DAMA is the right pathway for you into Australia and need some help finding a position for you, please contact comandini.migration@gmail.com

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4 Responses
  1. Hi me and my wife are looking to move to Australia, I am 45 and told the only way this will be possible is through work sponsorship. We have been looking at the Townsville area and have family in Sydney and Brisbane. Can you help ?

    1. Hi Simon,

      yes, you could move to Australia choosing for an area with a Dama Agreement for your case.
      I would suggest you to book a consultation with our migration lawyer at this link Book your appointment

    2. We can surely assit you.

      Plerase let me know if you wish to book your consultation.

      Regards

  2. Hi there I was thinking of immigrating to Australia so was wondering if there was any shortages of excavator operators in any particular region

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