I recently had a holiday in Cairns. When we were there, the weather was perfect at 27 degrees Celsius and on that same day, it was 2 degrees in Melbourne. It felt like I was back in the Philippines seeing all the tropical trees and enjoying the beach without the need to fly for at least eight hours and without exchanging Australian dollars for Philippine pesos.
Cairns has a small city feel to it with so many restaurants to choose from and places to visit whether you want to relax or head for an adventure. We visited the shops at Port Douglas, had a close encounter with sea creatures at the great barrier reef, took the train to Kuranda which went through the forest, and, saw several falls along the way.
Aside from being one of the top tourist attractions in Australia, Cairns and Far North Queensland (FNQ) also offer visa opportunities for applicants with lower skills and who are over 45 years old.
This article intends to provide an overview of the Far North Queensland (FNQ) Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMA).
What is DAMA?
DAMA is an agreement between the Australian government and a Designated Area Representative that provides regional employers with easier access to foreign workers as compared to the standard skilled migration program. The main features of DAMA include offering concessions on the applicant’s age or English requirement, concessions on the employer’s salary requirement, and in some roles, a Permanent Residency visa pathway is available.
What is FNQ DAMA?
This is a DAMA that covers the Far North Queensland area which includes Cairns, Douglas, Mareeba, Tablelands, Cook, or Cassowary Coast local government areas, or the Torres Shire Council local government area, or the Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council local government area, or the Weipa Town Authority area (postcodes 4852, 4854-4856, 4858-4861, 4865, 4868-4876, 4877-4883, 4885-4886 and 4895).
Here are some of the key features of this program:
- Low-skilled occupations are on the FNQ DAMA occupation list. Here are examples of roles that can be sponsored:
- Aged/Disabled Carer
- Accounts Clerk
- Beauty Therapists
- Commercial Housekeeper
- Deck Hand
- Fruit Picker
The full list of occupations can be found at https://www.cairnschamber.com.au/regional-migration/fnq-dama.
- Permanent residency visa pathways are available for all the roles on the occupation list. Applicants start with the TSS 482 visa and move on to ENS 186 Transition stream or start at SESR 494 visa, and move on to 191 visa.
- Age concession: Some roles can accept applicants up to 50 or 55 years old depending on the role. This is very helpful as the standard skilled migration program can only accept applicants up to 44 years old.
- English concession for some roles. This means that English test scores lower than the required scores for the standard skilled migration program will be acceptable.
- Salary concessions for the employers. This is helpful for employers who genuinely need staff and are happy to provide sponsorship but cannot afford the salary requirement set for a standard skilled migration program.
How can I qualify for the FNQ DAMA?
The most important step is to understand the required qualification and work experience for your role, and if you can satisfy the criteria for the visa you will be applying for. If you are eligible, you should have an eligible employer who is willing to sponsor you on a TSS 482 visa or on a SESR 494 visa.
Here are some examples of people who may qualify for the FNQ DAMA:
- An Aged Carer who has at least a relevant AQF or equivalent Certificate III; and at least one year (20 plus hours per week) of relevant work experience if applying for a TSS or SESR visa. A positive skills assessment from VETASSESS is required for this role.
- A Commercial Housekeeper who has at least a relevant AQF or equivalent Certificate I; or has at least one year (35 hours per week) of relevant work experience if applying for a TSS or SESR visa. A positive skills assessment from VETASSESS is required for this role.
- A Barista/Waiter who has at least a relevant AQF or equivalent Certificate II with at least one and a half years (20 plus hours per week) relevant work experience; or has at least a relevant AQF or equivalent Certificate III with at least one year (20 plus hours per week) relevant work experience; or has at least two years (35 hours per week) relevant work experience if applying for a TSS or SESR visa. A positive skills assessment from VETASSESS is required for this role.
If you are struggling to find a PR visa pathway in other parts of Australia, this might be a solution for you. However, you must ensure that you have an employer who is willing to sponsor you in this program.
It is suggested that you seek advice or assistance from a Registered Migration Agent or an Immigration Lawyer should you want to discuss if this opportunity suits you.