Agriculture Visa changes great news for Northern Australia


Farmers and primary producers across Northern Australia are a step closer to benefitting from the Liberal and National Government’s new Australian Agriculture Worker Visa, just in time for the mango picking season.


The historic announcement that the Ag Visa is now law ensures Northern farmers will have more help to secure the long-term labour force needed.


Special Envoy for Northern Australia, Senator Susan McDonald, said the Agriculture Visa will also create a pathway to permanent residency for those workers.


“I have spoken to many primary producers in North and Central Queensland who were in dire straits due to the lack of backpackers coming in to pick crops. In response, we promised this visa and we’ve delivered it. The creation of the Ag visa under the Migration Regulations is landmark moment for the sector and delivers on our promise to have it in place this year,” she said.


“The Ag Visa will be the biggest structural change to agricultural workforce in our nation’s history and producers in Northern Australia are poised to be able to grab the benefits with both hands.


“The visa will be available to seasonal workers, skilled and semiskilled workers, and will be open to South East Asian countries in conjunction with Pacific Island workers under our Pacific Labour Scheme.


“The Bowen district is already at $60-$80 million in crop losses and the district’s mango growers were also facing a similarly grim outlook.


“We’ve also had abattoirs operating at reduced capacity because of labour shortages. All this means trouble for our food producers but also increased prices for consumers.


“But the Morrison Government has responded with a solution that will help farms, fisheries, forestry and agricultural processing sectors get access to workers under this visa.


“Worker restrictions have always been a problem, but it has been taken to the next level with COVID and the subsequent international and internal borders.


“We now have a visa that will give Northern Australia a long term, reliable workforce for our agricultural industries.


“The Liberals and Nationals will always stand up for regional and rural Australia, and with this Agriculture Visa we have again delivered.”  

The regulation provides a new Australian Agriculture Worker stream which will provide for the entry and temporary stay of workers across primary industries sectors.


This provides the pathway for workers to arrive with first worker arrivals once partner country negotiations are complete. Any workers will also need to meet necessary Federal and State quarantine requirements.


Senator McDonald repeated her calls for the Queensland Government to establish more regional quarantine centres to speed up the flow of workers to where they’re needed.


“The Federal Government has pulled out all stops to help our primary producers but we really need the Queensland Government to act with more urgency,” she said.


Fast Facts:

  • The Migration Amendment (Australian Agriculture Workers) Regulations 2021 amends the Migration Regulations 1994 and: 
    • Creates a new Australian Agriculture Worker Stream in the Subclass 403 (Temporary Work (International Relations)) visa;
    • The new visa stream came into effect on 30 September 2021;
    • Provides for the entry and temporary stay of workers across primary industries sectors; and
    • Be available to workers from countries that where there is a bilateral agreement in place.
  • The Ag visa will be operated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, leveraging their experience managing the successful Pacific Labour Scheme. 
  • The Department of Home Affairs and Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment will provide operational support to ensure a high degree of integrity and that the needs of the agriculture and primary industry sectors are being met.
  • An independent review of the program will be undertaken after two years.
  • Further details and a fact sheet are available here.

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