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Overview of labour agreements in Australia

See all articlesOverview of labour agreements in Australia
Work & Skilled
Associate - Australian Migration Lawyer
April 4, 2024
minute read

There are many situations where an employer who is experiencing significant worker shortages might be unable to access skilled labour from overseas due to the rigidity of the standard visa program. This can include employers who are looking to sponsor occupations that have not yet been recognised by the Department as experiencing a shortage, or where they will need to seek concessions to the standard visa requirements, such as skills, language, age or salary, in order to allow for the effective sponsorship of workers. To prevent employers faced with these obstacles from missing out on the potential benefits of the immigration program, the Department has allowed for Labour Agreements.

These agreements are negotiated between an employer and the Australian Government, and generally come into force for a period of five years. The agreement acts as a kind of Sponsorship approval, meaning that an employer will not need to also be approved as a business sponsor prior to sponsoring workers on a 482 visa, and can make provisions for concessions to certain criteria for the grant of visas. 

The process for entering into a labour agreement can be quite complex, involving a significant amount of work, with all employers required to demonstrate a significant case as to why the agreement should be granted. The request for a labour agreement must outline why the business has a genuine need for overseas workers and must show that the business has a history of employing Australian workers when possible. It is also necessary to engage in stakeholder consultation with the relevant unions and industry bodies to seek their approval for the agreement. 

Any concessions to the standard visa program, including the use of occupations not on the existing Skilled Occupations Lists or changes to the skills, English language, or salary requirements for the visa, must be supported with a significant business case. The approval of the agreement and any requested concessions is at the discretion of the Department of Home Affairs and the Minister for Immigration and can take up to 12 months or more to be processed and finalised.

The finalised agreement will outline the terms of the sponsorship, as well as the number of positions that can be sponsored for each year of the agreement under the 482, 494, and 186 visa programs. Individual applicants will then have to be sponsored with the same process as a standard 482, with a nomination and visa application for each worker.

There are a few different types of labour agreements, with the most common, Company Specific, Industry, and DAMAs, outlined below.

Types of Labour Agreements

Company specific Labour Agreements

The most flexible type of agreement is the Company Specific Labour Agreement (CSLA), which is negotiated directly between an employer and the Department and aims to meet the specific needs of a business. These types of agreements can include concessions that a specific business needs, such as the inclusion of additional occupations in the 482 visa program, and concessions to standard visa requirements, however some types of concessions can only be granted in very limited circumstances. 

While these Labour Agreements can be the most complex, they can allow for greater flexibility than the other two types listed below, which can be viewed as template agreements. With a CSLA, the employer can vary the agreement to suit their specific needs.

Industry labour agreements

Industry Labour Agreements (ILAs) are template agreements that have been negotiated by industry bodies and can be accessed by businesses within those industries. The concessions and occupations for these agreements are already set and cannot be modified by employers seeking to access them, with the conditions varying between each separate agreement.

The current Industry Labour Agreements are:

  • Advertising 
  • Aged Care
  • Dairy
  • Fishing
  • Meat
  • Horticulture
  • Minister of Religion
  • On-hire
  • Pork
  • Restaurant (Premium Dining)

Employers operating within these industries can seek to access the Industry Template Agreements with similar evidentiary requirements as a CSLA, however the requirements to make a business case for each occupation and position are reduced as they have already been negotiated by the relevant industry bodies. There is also no requirement to engage in stakeholder consultation when seeking to access an ILA.

Designated Area Migration Agreements

Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMAs) are similar to the ILAs, being a template agreement with pre-negotiated terms, which have been put in place by regional employers and bodies. 

Certain areas throughout Australia are subject to a DAMA, which can provide for concessions or additional occupations to employers operating in those regions. There are currently 12 DAMAs in place, with some of the most common including:

  • East Kimberley WA 
  • Far North Queensland
  • Goulburn Valley VIC
  • Northern Territory
  • Pilbara WA
  • Townsville QLD

How Labour Agreements work

A labour agreement takes the place of a Standard Business Sponsorship, allowing employers to lodge nominations for visas. The 494, 482 and 186 visas all have streams dedicated to sponsors that hold a current labour agreement.

Once approved, the agreement will outline the number of positions for each visa subclass for each year of the agreement. For example, the labour agreement might specify 10 482 positions for years 1-3 of the agreement, and 10 186 positions for year four. The nomination ceilings can be amended by requesting a deed of variation form from the Department, so if you require more nominations you can request them. The agreement will also outline any concessions to the standard visa requirements.

Labour agreement holders will still need to lodge a nomination for each worker they would like to sponsor, as well as their visa application.

The process of applying for a labour agreement depends on the type you are applying for. Industry labour agreements have different requirements, but you will generally need to contact a relevant industry body to seek their endorsement. Some industry agreements do not require an endorsement, but you will need to demonstrate that your business operations would fall under the relevant criteria.

Designated Area Migration Agreements, or DAMAs, will require you to seek endorsement from a Designated Area Representative, which is usually a local chamber of commerce or council. They will each have their own process for the endorsement, and generally charge a fee for each position that you are seeking to nominate.

All labour agreements require a significant amount of evidence relating to the business’ operations and shortages. Company Specific agreements will also require you to engage with stakeholders, including the relevant union and industry bodies, to seek their support with the application. Further evidence relates to the financial viability of the company and their ability to support workers, any recruiting and training processes within the business, and evidence to show that the business has a high standing and would be considered a good corporate citizen.


Claim your consultation

If you are interested in getting more information about a work or skilled visa, get in touch with Australian Migration Lawyers for a free consultation.


Eligibility requirements for a Labour Agreement

In order to be eligible to apply for a labour agreement, a business should meet the following criteria:

  • Must have exhausted all options to find a suitable Australian worker
  • Must be considered a good corporate citizen
  • Must have been lawfully operating in Australia for at least 12 months
  • There must no be any adverse information about the company
  • Must show that the company is financially viable
  • Must have consulted with the relevant stakeholders (CSLA)
  • Must have Designated Area Representative approval (DAMA)
  • Must have complied with any additional requirements for an ILA or DAMA
  • Must be endorsed by the relevant industry body (ILA if applicable)

Labour Agreement checklist

Labour agreements are one of the most complex applications in the skilled visa sphere, and require a broad range of evidence in order to be successful. The Department does not clearly outline the information that you will need to provide, so it is important to provide a range of evidence in order to make a strong case for the agreement.

Labour agreements can take a significant amount of time to process, so it is important to provide a complete and substantial application in order to ensure that the application is successful. 

At Australian Migration Lawyers, we have developed a comprehensive checklist and templates to meet the criteria, which will vary depending on the nature of the business and the type of labour agreement that you are looking to apply for. Here is a snapshot of the documents that you will be asked to provide:

Position Details

  • Position description
  • Genuine Position Letter

Salary Details

  • Relevant award or enterprise agreement (if applicable)
  • Payslips and contracts for equivalent Australian employees
  • Salary surveys and comparable job ads

Company Details

  • ASIC and ABN details
  • Certifications and awards
  • Evidence of community involvement
  • Employer policies
  • Industry memberships
  • Organisation chart

Financial Information

  • Support letter from accountant
  • Financial statements
  • BAS statements

Evidence of Labour Shortages

  • Support letters from employers and industry groups
  • Articles relating to the occupations
  • Labour Market testing
  • Evidence of recruitment and training programs

Stakeholder Information

  • Letter to stakeholders
  • Evidence of contacting stakeholders
  • Stakeholder responses
  • Endorsement (if applicable)

Benefits of using an immigration lawyer for your labour agreement

Labour agreement applications can be incredibly complex, requiring a substantial and significant amount of evidence and a well formed business case in order to be successful. Many employers who are considering a labour agreement will have exhausted all other options and will have no way of addressing their shortages with the existing immigration pathways. As such, it is important to put forward an effective application in order to expedite the outcome and ensure that there are no issues.

At Australian Migration Lawyers, we provide valuable guidance and support to make the entire process as seamless as possible. We have a high success rate with our applications, and have dealt with a wide array of complex occupations and situations.

  • Our team of qualified Australian lawyers draw on their knowledge of legislation, case law, and policy, to give clear and accurate advice on all requirements and strategies relevant to your matter
  • As lawyers, we have an obligation to ensure that your application meets all legislative requirements, which greatly improves your chance of success
  • We assist in all stages of the process, including the preparation of all necessary applications all the way through to the grant of the visa, including working with you to action any additional requests from the Department of Home Affairs
  • We can assess your business and worker needs to determine the most suitable approach, as well as your likely chance of success with the application
  • We can facilitate the next steps once the agreement is in place, including all nominations and visa applications
Australian Migration Lawyers Team

Labour agreement costs

There are no costs associated with lodging a labour agreement application with the Department. Certain ILAs and DAMAs will have fees associated with their endorsement, which are generally charged for each position that you are seeking to nominate. For example, the East Kimberley DAMA charges $985 per position as part of their endorsement process.

Professional fees payable to Australian Migration Lawyers to prepare the application

Our fees will vary depending on the circumstances of your application. Some applications will be more complex than others and our fees will be quoted accordingly. We work on a fixed-fee basis rather than billing hourly to provide our clients with certainty about what the total costs associated with their visa application will be. We strive to be flexible, so we offer payment plans based on financial need. 


Claim your consultation

If you are interested in getting more information about a work or skilled visa, get in touch with Australian Migration Lawyers for a free consultation.


Labour Agreement processing times

There is currently a significant delay in labour agreement processing, particularly with Company Specific agreements. ILAs and DAMAs can take between 6-12 months or longer to process, and CSLAs can take up to 15 months.

Processing times will vary depending on the Department’s current workload and the quality of your application. An incomplete application will likely delay processing, and could result in a refusal.

At Australian Migration Lawyers, our goal is to submit high-standard, comprehensive applications that are as complete as possible to help reduce delays and to seek a successful outcome.

The most common questions we get about Labour Agreements in Asutralia

How long does a Labour Agreement last?

Once approved, the labour agreement will be for a period of five years. The agreement will usually specify how many nominations can be made in each year. A labour agreement cannot be extended once the five years have passed, so it will be necessary to lodge a new labour agreement close to the expiry.

How is a Labour Agreement different from a Standard Business Sponsorship?

A Standard Business Sponsorship will allow an employer to sponsor 482 or 494 visa applicants under the standard visa program. A labour agreement, which takes the place of the SBS, and allow for additional concessions to the standard program, including the addition of further occupations, salary concessions and English language concessions.

Which occupations can be sponsored on a Labour Agreement?

Industry Labour Agreements and DAMAs will generally have a list of occupations that can be eligible for those agreements. As for Company Specific, on paper you can include any occupation that you are seeking to sponsor. You will need to make a case for why the labour agreement is necessary, as well as evidence that you have been unable to find suitable Australian workers.

Is it possible to get a salary concession under a Labour Agreement?

Any concessions on a labour agreement are granted at the discretion of the Minister. A salary concession is one of the concessions that can be applied for, however any concessions can be very difficult to obtain. You will need to provide a significant amount of evidence justifying any concessions. A salary concession in particular can be difficult to obtain, so it should only be sought where there are very strong reasons justifying the concession, or it may jeopardize the entire application.

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