General Visa Information

The Far North Queensland DAMA is a skilled migration program that is tailored to the needs of our Far North Queensland region (FNQ).

What is a DAMA?

  • A DAMA is an agreement between the Australian Government and a regional, state or territory authority known as a Designated Area Representative (DAR).
  • It provides access to a broader range of overseas workers than the standard skilled visa programs, to fill recognised labour shortages in specified areas
  • A DAMA Labour Agreement may allow an employer to sponsor overseas workers under the terms and conditions specified in the overarching DAMA.
  • Like other labour agreements, a DAMA labour agreement is generally in effect for five years and currently uses:
  • Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa (subclass 482)
  • Employer Nomination Scheme visa (subclass 186)
  • Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 494)

For more information about the various visa classes, please refer to the relevant sections (links)

Specific conditions

  • All applicants must have a genuine intention to live, work and study in a designated regional area (including dependents).
  • Visa holders must comply with condition 8579 – live, work and study in a regional area.
  • Subclass 491: as per the definition at time of grant.
  • Subclass 494: as per the definition at time of recent nomination.
  • Provisional skilled regional visa holders can move to other regional areas in Australia but must remain in a ‘regional area’ as defined at the time of their visa grant or at time of nomination.
  • Subclass 494 visa holders must comply with condition 8608 – only work in nominated occupation for nominating employer.

Advantages of the FNQ DAMA

  • An FNQ DAMA occupation list designed for FNQ, with a greater range of occupations not linked to standard occupation lists, and with no caveats.
  • The ability to have occupations added (or removed) as local demands determine
  • Semi-skilled as well as skilled occupations (Skill Levels 1-5 instead of Skill Levels 1-3)
  • The facility to design and include unique local occupations not in ANZSCO (the standard classification of occupations)
  • Access to a clearly-defined permanent visa pathway for all occupations in Skill Levels 1-4
  • Access to age concessions of 55 or 50 (depending on occupation) rather than the general age limit of 45 applying to standard skilled migration pathways
  • The option of two visa pathways – TSS 482 to ENS 186, or SESR 494 to 191 (*the 191 comes into effect in Nov 2022)
  • Concessions to many skills, qualifications, and experience requirements, compared to those in standard skilled migration pathways
  • Salary concessions for lower skilled occupations that reflect FNQ market rates, ensuring that worker terms and conditions of employment are not eroded
  • English language concessions for numerous occupations
  • More lenient Labour Market Testing requirements than standard requirements
  • Priority processing times


Which employers can access the FNQ DAMA?

To access a FNQ DAMA Labour Agreement, employers must first be endorsed by the Cairns Chamber of Commerce as the Designated Area Representative (DAR). Employers may be able to  access the FNQ DAMA if they:

  • are operating within the FNQ DAMA ‘Designated Area’ which includes postcodes 4852, 4854-4856, 4858-4861, 4865, 4868-4875, 4877-4883, 4885-4886 and 4895, within the Cairns, Douglas, Mareeba, Tablelands, Cook, or Cassowary Coast local government areas, or the Torres Shire Council local government area, or the Weipa Town Authority area)
  • are viable and have been operating for at least 12 months unless there are exceptional circumstances
  • have no history of not meeting obligations to employees
  • are looking to employ overseas workers to fill full-time positions with duties that align with one or more of the occupations on the FNQ DAMA occupation list
  • can demonstrate they cannot fill the position locally with Australian citizens or permanent residents
  • can provide terms and conditions of employment to overseas workers that are in accordance with those offered to Australian workers employed in the region.

DAMA Application Process

The Cairns Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber) is the Designated Area Representative (“DAR”) for the Far North Queensland Designated Area Migration Agreement (FNQ DAMA).

The FNQ DAMA is a four-stage process:

Stage 1 – DAR endorsement.

This is undertaken by the Cairns Chamber of Commerce as the DAR. You cannot proceed to Stage 2 unless you have DAR endorsement.  A DAR endorsement letter is valid for one year, and for one or more occupations and positions.

Stage 2 – Requesting a Labour Agreement with the Department of Home Affairs.

If you are endorsed to access a Labour Agreement under the FNQ DAMA, you can then apply for the Labour Agreement online with the Department of Home Affairs.

Requesting a Labour Agreement includes meeting mandatory legislative requirements as at the date you submit that request online. This includes evidence that you have genuinely tried to recruit from within the Australian labour market, through prescribed Labour Market Testing (LMT).

A Labour Agreement, once signed, can be valid for up to five years, and generally specifies how many occupation/s and position/s you can nominate in each year of the agreement.

Stage 3 – Nominating the visa applicant/s.

Once you have a Labour Agreement in place with the government, you can then nominate specific individual Overseas Workers against the occupation/s and position/s stated in the Labour Agreement, up to the cap and within the year specified in that agreement.

Nominations are lodged with the Department of Home Affairs.

Note that the prescribed Labour Market Testing (LMT) undertaken for the Labour Agreement Stage also needs to be current when you lodge an associated nomination application.

Stage 4 – Nominee/s apply for their visa.

This is the final stage when the nominated individuals apply for their visa, undergo police checks, medical checks, and other criteria specific to them.

Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) labour market testing requirements from 1 September 2021

Employers seeking overseas workers under a DAMA must provide evidence of LMT:

  • when applying for Designated Area Representative (DAR) endorsement,
  • requesting a DAMA labour agreement, and
  • at the Nomination stage.

From 1 September 2021, this evidence must demonstrate at least 2 genuine attempts (advertising) to recruit qualified and experienced Australians. The same LMT evidence can be used at each of the above stages, however the advertising must have occurred within the last 12 months before lodging the nomination application.

Acceptable evidence will include one advertisement with national reach, for example: Seek, Jobactive or an Australian industry website. The other advertisement may be local, for example: a business’ website or local media online, print or radio. For businesses in Category 3 (regional) regions, Jobactive advertising is still encouraged as an option but is not a prescribed requirement.

For a detailed overview of requirements and costs, please contact us.

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