Far North Queensland Designated Area Migration Agreement
Who can access an agreement to sponsor overseas workers under the Far North Queensland Designated Area Migration Agreement (FNQ DAMA)?
Far North Queensland (FNQ) employers with well-established operations in FNQ for a minimum of 12 months. The employer must have a genuine need for the position/s within their operations in the FNQ Designated Area (which includes the 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). Refer to the FNQ DAMA Information Guide in this website for more information.
As an employer in FNQ, can I sponsor overseas workers currently residing overseas under the FNQ DAMA?
You may sponsor overseas workers residing in Australia or overseas from any country, through the FNQ DAMA.
Do I need to identify the prospective worker/s before accessing the FNQ DAMA?
No. You can seek endorsement to access the FNQ DAMA and be approved for a FNQ DAMA Labour Agreement without having identified any prospective overseas worker/s in advance. This is because the endorsement and Labour Agreement are about your business need to address skills shortages. Nominating individuals comes next once a Labour Agreement with pre-approved occupation/s and position/s is in place. This helps with planning, and makes your business a more attractive proposition to prospective skilled or semi-skilled overseas workers where you cannot fill those positions from the Australian labour market. There are, however, many employers who sponsor existing overseas employees by accessing the FNQ DAMA.
Why would I seek any of the concessions if I haven’t yet identified a prospective overseas worker?
There are numerous reasons, one being that by having, for example, an age concession approved for the occupation/s you are seeking, it means that you broaden the potential pool of overseas workers who may not meet the 45 year age limit in most standard pathways. The occupations you are seeking may also benefit from more experienced and mature-age employees who are able to transfer important skills to your existing workforce. Similarly, depending on the occupation in need, the English language concession in the FNQ DAMA may broaden the pool of prospective overseas workers.
The occupation/s I need to fill are on the FNQ DAMA occupation list but also available in standard skilled migration programs. Which option should I use?
The FNQ DAMA is designed to complement standard options, not compete with or replace them. If there is a standard option that meets your needs the government expects you to use that option. However, the standard skilled migration option for the occupation sought may not have a clear pathway to permanent residence, or any of the other concessions accessible in the FNQ DAMA – if these are needed then you can use the FNQ DAMA option. Another reason you may consider the FNQ DAMA option is that if you have thoroughly tested the Australian labour market and been unsuccessful, you can have your skill shortages addressed by including them in an FNQ DAMA labour agreement (with any necessary concessions) without having yet identified any overseas worker/s. With occupation/s and position/s pre-approved in your Labour Agreement, you may then be able to attract overseas workers with the right skills and experience to your business, nominating them under your FNQ Labour Agreement once you decide to employ them.
When can a nomination be lodged for a prospective worker under the FNQ DAMA?
There is no need to wait until the FNQ DAMA Labour Agreement has been approved to lodge associated nomination/s. However, nomination requests and visa applications relating to the FNQ DAMA Labour Agreement cannot be lodged for at least 1 business day after your labour agreement request has been submitted in ImmiAccount. If you are unable to lodge a nomination request in ImmiAccount after this timeframe you may email for further advice.
How long is the processing time for the FNQ DAMA endorsement request?
The DAR endeavours to complete assessment for endorsement within 5 working days. However if you have not supplied all necessary information required to make a meaningful assessment and decision, the assessment can take longer. The DAR may request further information or clarification from you during the assessment process. The Department of Home Affairs determines its own processing times.
Is labour market testing (LMT) necessary before seeking endorsement under the FNQ DAMA?
The DAR requires a summary of genuine recruitment efforts in the lead up to requesting an endorsement, preferably corresponding with evidence that LMT would meet the migration legislative requirements. It would be questionable why an employer is requesting a DAMA labour agreement for a position/s before they have tested the labour market to see whether it can be filled by an Australian citizen or permanent resident. If there is indeed a genuine need to fill a position it would be expected that an employer genuinely keen to fill a vacancy would be running ongoing advertising since before requesting DAR endorsement, until they fill the position with either an Australian or an oversas worker.
The occupation/s I need are not on the FNQ DAMA occupation list. What can I do?
The DAR is required to undertake a labour market analysis every year, usually through a survey across a percentage of employers across all sectors within the Designated Area. This annual analysis informs whether the DAR requests any variations to the FNQ DAMA head agreement, in respect of occupations or concessions. If you have a genuine business need for an occupation to be added, you should put the details in writing in a letter to the Cairns Chamber of Commerce to help inform their analysis. The letter should be written in such a way that it can be attached to a Deed of Variation submission to the Minister if necessary. If you are aware of other businesses in FNQ with a similar need, you may collaborate with a joint letter, or each write separately. The broader the need, the greater the prospect of the Minister approving the additional occupation/s or concession/s.
What if I nominate an Overseas Worker under an FNQ DAMA labour agreement but they leave after one year?
An overseas worker nominated by you under the FNQ DAMA will only be eligible for a permanent visa after they have held their temporary visa for at least three years, working for you, full-time, in the same occupation, within the FNQ DAMA Designated Area. They can only change employers without affecting their eligibility for the permanent visa, if the new employer also has an FNQ DAMA labour agreement and nominates them for the same occupation also within the FNQ DAMA Designated Area for the remainder of the three year period. If the overseas worker leaves under any other circumstances, their eligibility under the FNQ DAMA ceases. Once you have used an approved position in your FNQ DAMA labour agreement to successfully nominate someone, that position cannot be reused. You can seek additional occupations and/or positions if necessary during the life of your 5 year FNQ DAMA Labour Agreement.
The FNQ DAMA has two visa pathway options, the TSS and the SESR. Which one should I use?
The DAR cannot advise you which pathway best suits both your circumstances and those of any existing or prospective overseas worker you may nominate. Information about each visa (TSS, SESR for example) is available on the Department of Home Affairs website. If you are unsure you should seek professional advice from a registered migration agent. You must nominate which visa (or combination of visas for multiple occupations and/or positions) you are seeking at the time of requesting endorsement from the DAR.
What is the role of the Cairns Chamber of Commerce (the DAR) in the endorsement process?
The DAR has numerous obligations under the FNQ DAMA head agreement. These include ensuring only employers with a genuine skill shortage are given access to the FNQ DAMA, that salary and working conditions will be at least equivalent to those of an Australian in the same job, that there will be no exploitation of workers, and other checks and balances. When preparing an endorsement letter for the Department of Home Affairs, the DAR value adds with its local knowledge of the labour market, of the industry sector, and where possible, of the business itself. Home Affairs decision-makers place significant weight on credible information provided by the DAR. For this reason, the FNQ DAMA endorsement process is not a ‘tick and flick’ exercise, and there are occasions where the DAR may decline to endorse.
Can I use the FNQ DAMA to fill seasonal or casual roles?
No. The FNQ DAMA can only be used to address skill shortages in full-time permanent roles, usually as part of the core workforce.
Do I have to use a migration agent?
Many employers make a business decision to use a registered migration agent, while some choose not to. The decision whether to use an agent is up to you. You should do your own due diligence in choosing a registered migration agent. Migration agents are regulated by the Migration Agents' Registration Authority (MARA), and their official portal has a search function. If you encounter an agent who is not familiar with the FNQ DAMA, you may refer them to this website or ask them to email the Cairns Chamber of Commerce at
Does the Skilling Australian Fund levy apply under the FNQ DAMA?
You should check the Department of Home Affairs website for each visa option under the FNQ DAMA, regarding any government fees or charges, as well as the Skilling Australian Fund page.
A revised FNQ DAMA (version 1.3 commenced on 30 March 2022. How does this affect my existing FNQ DAMA Labour Agreement signed before that date?
Your existing FNQ DAMA Labour Agreement will continue to operate as it is written, under the FNQ DAMA head agreement that was in place at the time your Labour Agreement was signed. Any requests to add or amend occupations in subsequent years for your existing Labour Agreement will be in accordance with the original FNQ DAMA as is stood on date of signing (including the occupations that may be accessed and access to permanent visa pathways, where available).
However, you may submit a Deed of Variation to the Department of Home Affairs at any time to vary your existing Labour Agreement, in accordance with Paragraph 14.2 of your existing Labour Agreement. This may include requesting variations to align with aspects of the current FNQ DAMA if there is a demonstrated business need. A Deed of Variation that seeks to change or add any occupations, position numbers, or occupation concessions, requires DAR endorsement. If in doubt, contact the DAR for advice.
Example: You have a pre-30 March 2022 FNQ DAMA Labour Agreement that includes occupations A and B, which are on the Occupation List for the FNQ DAMA as it stood at that date. However, you now have a need for a further occupation, C, that is not in the original Occupation List but is in the new revised Occupation List (post-30 March 2022). You may seek DAR endorsement to have occupation C added to your Labour Agreement, by way of a Deed of Variation, even though it was not on the list at the time your Labour Agreement was approved. You can also ask to add any new concessions available.
How do I seek a variation to an existing FNQ DAMA Labour Ageement?
As in the previous question, if your variation/s involves changing or adding any occupations, position numbers, or occupation concessions (whether against a previous or current version of the FNQ DAMA), you will first need DAR endorsement. Once you have endorsement, you then emailwho will provide you with a pro-forma to complete and send to them. They will then advise whether the variations are approved or not.
My business was issued a DAR Endorsement Letter by the Cairns Chamber of Commerce under the old FNQ DAMA before 30 March 2022, and submitted a Labour Agreement request to the Department of Home Affairs that has not yet been decided. How does this affect my Labour Agreement request?
If you applied for a Labour Agreement under the FNQ DAMA before the latest variations were approved on 30 March 2022, your FNQ DAMA Labour Agreement will be in accordance with the FNQ DAMA that was in place as at the date you applied. This will not affect the validity or duration of your FNQ DAMA Labour Agreement.
My business was issued a DAR Endorsement Letter by the Cairns Chamber of Commerce under the old FNQ DAMA before 30 June 2022, but hasn’t yet submitted a Labour Agreement request to the Department of Home Affairs. Can this endorsement still be used for the new revised FNQ DAMA?
The significant variations to the new FNQ DAMA require that a new Request for Endorsement form must be completed. If your existing endorsement letter is still valid (less than 12 months old) and there are no substantial changes, a new endorsement letter may be provided without payment of a new fee. If the endorsement letter is more than 12 months old and/or if there are any substantial changes (such as seeking changes to occupations, numbers of positions, proposed salary, or additional concessions not previously available) then a completely new endorsement request and endorsement fee will be required. Contact the Chamber for advice.
I am interested in working in Far North Queensland. Can I apply for a visa under the FNQ DAMA independently?
No. The FNQ DAMA is an employer-sponsored visa program and can only be accessed by employers with genuine skill shortages who may then nominate individuals. Individuals cannot access the FNQ DAMA program directly or on their own.
Will the Cairns Chamber of Commerce recommend employers that may want to sponsor me through the FNQ DAMA?
No. The Cairns Chamber of Commerce is not able to match individuals with prospective employers. Individuals are free to contact prospective employers in the FNQ region. If the employer is not familiar with the FNQ DAMA, the individual can direct the employer to the Cairns Chamber of Commerce for information via email, or refer them to this website.
Are prospective workers guaranteed permanent residency under the FNQ DAMA?
Workers must meet the eligibility requirements for permanent residency under the FNQ DAMA. Refer to the FNQ DAMA Information Guide for details about the permanent residence pathway.
Department of Home Affairs - useful links:
Labour Market Testing
DAMA Factsheet - Labour Market Testing (September 2021)
Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS 482) Visa
Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (SESR 494) Visa
Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS 186) Visa
Skilled Regional (191) Visa