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Frequently asked questions

To make it easier for you to find the information you need, these questions are filtered by audience and topic in 5 categories: What’s new, general, prospective employers, current employers and workers.

What is the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme?

What is the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme?
  • The Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme allows Australian businesses to hire workers from 9 Pacific island countries and Timor-Leste when there are not enough local workers available. 
  • Once approved to participate in the PALM scheme, employers can recruit workers to fill unskilled, low-skilled or semi-skilled positions for seasonal placements up to 9 months or longer-term placements of between one and 4 years.
  • Seasonal and longer-term workers can be employed in any sector and in all regional and rural postcodes, except for agriculture which applies to all of Australia.
  • Businesses who meet the eligibility criteria can apply to become approved and recruit from either or both cohorts of workers under the PALM scheme using this online application form.

When will the PALM scheme commence?

When will the PALM scheme commence?
  • Key PALM scheme reforms will be phased in starting from early April 2022.
  • On 4 April, the Subclass 403 Temporary Work (International Relations) Visa – Pacific Australia Labour Mobility stream will come into effect. This will create the new consolidated PALM scheme visa stream. It will extend visa validity for up to 4 years for long term placements and introduce the ability for seasonal workers to transfer into longer-term roles onshore where eligible.
  • This will be followed by a new PALM scheme deed, employer guidelines and improved IT platform to be implemented in mid-2022.

Who is primarily responsible for the management and operation of the PALM scheme?

Who is primarily responsible for the management and operation of the PALM scheme?
  • The PALM scheme will be managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) with the support of DFAT’s provider, the Pacific Labour Facility (PLF).
  • DFAT will retain responsibility for key program aspects requiring government oversight, including risk management, program integrity and assurance.
  • DFAT and the PLF will also continue to work closely with other responsible government agencies including the Department of Home Affairs, Australian Border Force, Attorney General’s Department and the Fair Work Ombudsman to ensure the integrity of the scheme is maintained.

Who can I contact with questions?

Who can I contact with questions?
  • For long-term workers and employers, please contact the PALM support service line at (1800 515 131) if you have any questions. This number is monitored 24/7 – please note after hours calls to this number should be for critical incidents only.
  • For seasonal workers and employers, call the SWP information line (+61 2 6240 5234).

What new features of the PALM scheme will commence in April 2022?

What new features of the PALM scheme will commence in April 2022?
  • The following key features of the PALM scheme will commence from 4 April 2022:
    • a single PALM scheme visa for seasonal and long-term worker cohorts with
      • extended validity of up to 4 years for long term placements
      • provision for multiple entries
      • the ability for seasonal workers to move from seasonal to long-term work onshore where a relevant role is identified by an employer
      • mandatory offshore periods (3 months out of every 12 for the seasonal cohort and 6 months at the end of a 4-year placement for the long term cohort) to ensure workers have the opportunity to return home to reconnect with family and community
    • removal of recruitment caps for existing employers with a good track record
    • expansion of our regional presence to better connect with industry and improve support to employers and workers including 24 personnel across Australia through the PLF
    • review of worker welfare and assurance measures in May 2022 to identify best practice for inclusion in the new PALM scheme deed and guidelines (to be launched mid 2022)
    • removal of restrictions on sectors able to recruit seasonal workers, meaning all employers with seasonal workforce needs in regional and rural Australia (except agriculture which applies to all of Australia) can apply to access the scheme
    • piloting a new pathway to increase the volume of qualified Pacific and Timor-Leste aged care workers under the PALM scheme, through a partnership between DFAT, the Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) and select aged care employers
    • commitment to deliver an improved IT platform alongside the new PALM deed and guidelines which will streamline processes and improve user experience
    • establishment of a red tape reduction working group to meet quarterly to reduce bureaucracy for employers while maintaining strong worker protections. Over time this will include web-based options to enable employers to suggest improvements to administration of the PALM scheme.
  • DFAT issued Notices of Direction under both the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) and Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) deeds on 1 April 2022 alongside amended employer guidelines which have been updated to give effect to these changes from 4 April 2022.

Does the PALM scheme replace the SWP and the PLS?

Does the PALM scheme replace the SWP and the PLS?
  • The SWP and the PLS will be consolidated into the single PALM scheme. The SWP and PLS will continue to operate as 2 separate programs under the PALM scheme.
  • Changes will be introduced in stages, with some features of the new scheme to commence on 4 April 2022, such as the new, more flexible visa. Other program settings will be implemented in mid-2022.

Why are the PALM deed and guidelines being launched mid-year, rather than on 4 April 2022?

Why are the PALM deed and guidelines being launched mid-year, rather than on 4 April 2022?
  • We expect to introduce the new PALM scheme deed and guidelines mid-year.
  • The Australian Government is committed to getting the scheme’s settings right for employers, workers and our Pacific and Timor-Leste family alike. Introducing the new deed and guidelines mid-year allows more time for considered consultation on these important documents and ensures workers can continue to deploy to Australia uninterrupted.

What are the new minimum hourly wage guarantees for pieceworkers?

What are the new minimum hourly wage guarantees for pieceworkers?
  • The Fair Work Commission has made a decision to include a minimum hourly wage guarantee and a requirement to record hours worked by pieceworkers into the Horticulture Award. These changes take effect from the first pay period on or after 28 April 2022.
  • The information on www.fairwork.gov.au and the Horticulture Showcase explains the current minimum entitlements that apply as per the current state of the law. These will continue to apply until 27 April 2022.
  • To learn more, you can go to the Fair Work Commission website to read the decision and final determination.

How does mutual recognition of approved accommodation plans work under the PALM scheme?

How does mutual recognition of approved accommodation plans work under the PALM scheme?
  • We know accommodation is a challenging aspect of supporting workers while they are in Australia.
  • If an approved employer has had an accommodation site previously approved for the SWP or PLS, they will not need to complete the standard accommodation plan process.
  • The employer will, however, need to provide enough information to allow us to identify and approve the accommodation. The following information should be provided:
    • accommodation type
    • identification of whether the accommodation is commercial
    • address of the accommodation
    • ownership of the accommodation and any actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest
    • details of any bond that will be charged
    • maximum occupancy for the accommodation
    • the gender of workers who will be accommodated at the accommodation site
    • advise if only one employer’s workers will be accommodated at the property during their placement and, if not, provide details of who else will be accommodated at the site
    • confirmation the accommodation meets the minimum requirements under the deed and guidelines
    • confirmation if the accommodation is a private arrangement
    • a written explanation of the sleeping areas available, e.g., this is a 4-bedroom house with 2 single beds in each room
    • an external photograph of the property only
    • outline the cost per PALM scheme worker and the basis of rent charged
    • outline the workplace and community facilities
    • advise in the accommodation plan if the site has been approved previously for another PALM scheme employer.
  • At all times, irrespective of any prior approval of any accommodation site, the approved employer remains responsible for ensuring the accommodation under the recruitment meets minimum program standards.

What is the difference between seasonal and long-term streams under the PALM scheme?

What is the difference between seasonal and long-term streams under the PALM scheme?
  • Under the PALM scheme there will be 2 cohorts of workers:
    • seasonal workers will work in placements up to 9 months and can access a multi-year visa to return to Australia for up to 9 months each year for 4 years
    • long-term workers will work in placements of one to 4 years in length.
  • Both visa streams will operate from 4 April 2022, while employers will continue to recruit workers under the existing SWP deed and guidelines (for the seasonal cohort) and the PLS deed and guidelines (for the long-term cohort).

Who is responsible for paying workers’ visa costs?

Who is responsible for paying workers’ visa costs?
  • PALM employers are responsible for paying the upfront cost of workers’ visas and submitting visa applications on behalf of workers, with sending countries supporting this process by collating workers’ documentation.
  • These costs may be deducted once workers begin employment in accordance with the requirements of the Fair Work Act and PLS and/or SWP deed and guidelines.

What are the accommodation requirements for the PALM scheme?

What are the accommodation requirements for the PALM scheme?
  • PALM scheme worker accommodation is provided by approved employers in accordance with the SWP and PLS Deeds of Agreement and principles and requirements of the PALM scheme, including that accommodation:
    • be of fair and good value
    • have transparent costs
    • be fit for purpose and in good condition
    • be accessible, safe and secure have an adequate number of beds of appropriate size and level of comfort
    • have adequate bathroom facilities
    • contain social, leisure and telecommunication facilities.
  • Accommodation plans must be submitted with recruitment plans.
  • The plans must be accurate. Audits/inspections will be undertaken by the welfare and assurance team to ensure standards are met.
  • Should the accommodation change, a new accommodation plan must be submitted for approval.

What contribution do approved employers make to flights and transfers?

What contribution do approved employers make to flights and transfers?
  • Currently, approved employers must organise and pay upfront the full costs of travel to and from Australia for seasonal workers. Approved employers may recoup any amount over the first $300.
  • Long-term workers may elect to organise their own flights. However, in most situations approved employers will organise the flights to Australia for long-term workers and pay the costs upfront. These costs may be recouped through pay deductions.

Will there be funding available for PALM scheme employers to improve workers’ technical knowledge and abilities?

Will there be funding available for PALM scheme employers to improve workers’ technical knowledge and abilities?
  • The PALM scheme skills development program provides workers from the Pacific and Timor-Leste with access to training while they are working in Australia.
  • The program benefits both workers and employers by improving workers’ technical knowledge and abilities and increasing business productivity.
  • Funding will be available for approved employers. These funds are intended to contribute to the costs of both accredited and non-accredited training for workers.
  • Learn more about the PALM scheme skills development program.

I’m interested in becoming a PALM scheme employer. Am I eligible? How do I apply?

I’m interested in becoming a PALM scheme employer. Am I eligible? How do I apply?
  • You can find out more by visiting the employer eligibility page on this website. After considering the information and determining if you are eligible, you can apply to become a PALM scheme employer via the online application form.
  • If you are unlikely to be eligible or do not feel you are able to meet program requirements, you may wish to work with a PALM scheme labour hire firm or contractor. For more information on these, please refer to this filterable list of current PALM scheme employers.

How can I ensure I have the best chance of success with my application to become a PALM scheme employer?

How can I ensure I have the best chance of success with my application to become a PALM scheme employer?
  • For the best chance of success, prospective employers are encouraged to make sure all questions in the application form are answered fully and truthfully.
  • Any history of reported non-compliance activities must be disclosed, and you must demonstrate you have well-considered plans in place to ensure your workers’ wellbeing is a key priority.
  • It is also important for an employer to demonstrate that they have the financial resources to cover the upfront and ongoing costs of engaging seasonal workers. For more information visit the employers page on this website.

When can I recruit under the PALM scheme?

When can I recruit under the PALM scheme?
  • If you are an approved employer, you can submit recruitment applications at any time.
  • Please note: there will be a recruitment pause period during the transition to the new IT system expected mid-2022. Approved employers will be informed of the recruitment pause period well in advance.

How do approved employers recruit?

How do approved employers recruit?
  • Participating country governments may agree to any or all the following 3 modes of recruitment:
    • work-ready pool (government led)
    • agents
    • direct recruitment. 
  • The preferred recruitment mode is the decision of Pacific island countries and Timor-Leste.

Can I recruit both seasonal workers and long-term workers?

Can I recruit both seasonal workers and long-term workers?
  • Yes. If you are already an approved employer of both the SWP and the PLS, you can recruit workers in both seasonal and long-term placements in a single recruitment application.

What is the timeline from submitting a recruitment plan to mobilisation?

What is the timeline from submitting a recruitment plan to mobilisation?
  • It takes around 8 weeks to mobilise workers from when a recruitment plan is submitted as long as all documents are provided ‘decision ready’.
  • In the first few weeks, approved employers discuss their labour needs with relevant Pacific and Timor-Leste government labour sending units (LSUs). LSUs then provide feedback and a shortlist of workers for employers to interview and select from. The PLF (for long-term workers) or DFAT (for seasonal workers) review labour market testing, offers of employment and accommodation plans. Once approvals are given, recruitment visa processes and supporting activities can commence.
  • Please note: if you are not yet an approved employer, LSUs will not prioritise your queries.

Do recruitment plan applications generate a reference number?

Do recruitment plan applications generate a reference number?
  • A recruitment endorsement number is generated once the PLF assesses the recruitment plan. The endorsement number is included in the PLF approval email that is sent to the LSU.
  • If you still need to apply for visas for workers related to a recruitment plan approved before 4 April, contact your contract manager who will be able to issue an endorsement number for the existing recruitment plan.

Is there a cap on the number of workers that an approved employer can recruit?

Is there a cap on the number of workers that an approved employer can recruit?
  • There will be initial recruitment caps for all new approved employers entering the PALM scheme. These may be removed after a review of performance after the first 4 months.
  • Initial recruitment caps will only be applied to employers that are new to the PALM scheme, not to employers that are already approved and have demonstrated good performance under the SWP or PLS.
  • However, recruitment caps may be reimposed at any time if there are concerns about an employer’s performance or ability to support workers while they are in Australia.

What is labour market testing?

What is labour market testing?
  • Labour market testing is an important part of the recruitment process. It ensures Australian job seekers are given the opportunity to take up jobs before they are offered to workers under the PALM scheme.
  • Under the PALM scheme, you must submit evidence of labour market testing for each recruitment application. The validity of labour market testing has been increased and will remain valid for 12 months, which reduces red tape for employers.
  • Workers can only be recruited where you can demonstrate unmet labour need and where you have genuinely attempted to employ suitable Australian workers first. An Australian worker is an Australian citizen or permanent resident.

What industries can I recruit workers in?

What industries can I recruit workers in?
  • Under the PALM scheme, all sectors are eligible. However, PALM scheme employers can only recruit workers in seasonal placements where they have genuine seasonal work available. This tends to be more common in industries such as agriculture and tourism. For seasonal placements, there is no extension beyond 9 months unless the worker is moving into a different (generally higher-skilled) role or genuinely long term, year-round role.

What skill level can workers be recruited in?

What skill level can workers be recruited in?
  • Once approved to participate in the PALM scheme, employers can recruit workers to fill unskilled, low-skilled or semi-skilled positions for seasonal placements of up to 9 months or long-term placements of between one and 4 years.
  • The scheme allows seasonal workers to transition to longer term employment if they have been offered either genuine year-round or higher skilled positions.

Will there be changes to the visa class under the new PALM scheme once it commences on 4 April 2022?

Will there be changes to the visa class under the new PALM scheme once it commences on 4 April 2022?
  • Yes. From 4 April 2022, all new PALM scheme workers will have to apply for a Subclass 403 visa in the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility stream.
  • There will be 2 cohorts of workers under this visa stream:
    • seasonal workers up to 9 months in every 12 months
    • long term workers between one to 4 years.
  • The Subclass 403 Temporary Work (International Relations) Visa in the SWP stream or PLS stream will no longer be available.
  • However, workers who have already been granted or submitted an SWP or PLS stream visa before 4 April 2022 will be able to arrive and remain in Australia on those visas.

How do I apply for a PALM scheme visa?

How do I apply for a PALM scheme visa?
  • The Subclass 403 Temporary Work (International Relations) Visa is a sponsored visa. This means workers must be invited to apply for the PALM scheme visa by an approved employer which is a temporary activities sponsor (TAS).
  • A TAS is an employer that has applied and been approved to become a sponsor through the Department of Home Affairs. It must meet certain sponsorship obligations.
  • Employers inviting workers to apply for the visa must also be an approved employer under the PALM scheme.
  • The key steps in recruiting workers are:
    • submit a recruitment request for PALM workers for endorsement by the LSU
    • submit a recruitment plan to the PLF (2-week processing period)
    • LSUs identify workers according to recruitment requirements
    • approved employers interview and select workers
    • approved employer sends offers of employment and contracts to workers to be signed offshore before departure
    • workers undertake police and health checks to meet visa requirements
    • visa applications are submitted to Home Affairs to be assessed
    • LSUs provide workers with pre-departure briefings (2 to 3 days) to educate workers on program requirements, Australian workplace laws and workers’ rights, Australian culture and life
    • approved employers complete digital passenger declarations for workers before they arrive in Australia
    • workers arrive in Australia by commercial or charter flight, and undertake briefing on arrival.
  • For further information, please refer to the Department of Home Affairs PALM scheme visa website page.
  • Workers who would like to register interest in participating in the scheme should contact the LSU in their country. Workers must be a minimum of 21 years of age to participate in the PALM scheme.
  • To start the process, go to www.palmscheme.gov.au/apply. You will be supported by the PLF (enquiries@pacificlabourfacility.com.au) throughout the process.

Can I switch from an SWP or PLS visa to a PALM scheme visa?

Can I switch from an SWP or PLS visa to a PALM scheme visa?
  • If you hold a Subclass 403 Temporary Work (International Relations) Visa in the SWP stream or PLS stream, and you meet PALM scheme eligibility, then you may apply for and be granted a Subclass 403 visa in the PALM stream long-term visa ONLY. The transfer can be made onshore.
  • The approved employer must still submit a recruitment plan as per usual arrangements and notify the PLF that they are recruiting a worker onshore rather than mobilising from a participating country. The PLF will evaluate and confirm that the proposed arrangements comply with the required criteria before the approved employer supports the visa application.
  • If you are an SWP visa holder, you cannot apply for a PALM scheme visa in the seasonal stream, only long term; and all visa holders can only apply for a PALM scheme visa for a total of 4 years in Australia.

Can I move to a long-term PALM visa from a seasonal visa?

Can I move to a long-term PALM visa from a seasonal visa?
  • Seasonal workers may be eligible to apply for a long-term PALM scheme visa in Australia if they are transitioning to a long-term employment contract under the PALM scheme.
  • Subclass 408 visa holders are not eligible to apply.
  • Workers currently holding an SWP visa who are employed in seasonal placements may be offered and move to a long-term PLS placement if there is an ongoing, year-round (non-seasonal) role available and the employer has signed the PLS deed. This may be in a higher-skilled position.

Do the old SWP and PLS visas still exist?

Do the old SWP and PLS visas still exist?
  • Workers that currently hold a Subclass 403 Temporary Work (International Relations) Visa, SWP single season visa or PLS stream visa can continue to hold this visa until it expires if they remain employed under a valid employment contract.
  • Workers with a multi-year SWP visa may also continue to enter and leave Australia under their current visa as long as they are offered employment for future seasons.
  • From 4 April 2022, no new applications for the SWP and PLS visas will be accepted. From 4 April 2022, all workers must apply for the PALM scheme visa to enter Australia under the PALM scheme.
  • For workers currently on SWP and PLS visas, these visas will continue to be valid until they expire or are cancelled.

What are mandatory offshore periods?

What are mandatory offshore periods?
  • For seasonal workers, a mandatory offshore period of 3 months each year will apply. This means workers must leave Australia for 3 months after being in Australia for 9 months, before starting another PALM scheme seasonal placement.
  • For long-term workers, a mandatory offshore period of 6 months after 4 years will apply. This means workers must leave Australia for 6 months after being in Australia for 4 years, before starting another PALM scheme long-term placement.

If a worker is on a long-term placement for the full 4 years, does the worker have to leave Australia after the 4 years is complete?

If a worker is on a long-term placement for the full 4 years, does the worker have to leave Australia after the 4 years is complete?
  • The 6-month mandatory offshore period for PALM scheme workers on long-term placements applies after 4 continuous years of work in Australia.
  • There is no requirement for a worker to leave Australia during the 4-year placement unless he/she does not have a valid visa. (Please note: not all long-term workers will receive a visa for the entire 4 years – the length of their visa is linked to the duration of their employment contract).
  • Workers can leave Australia multiple times during their placement. A mandatory offshore period is only required when workers reach the end of their 4-year visa.

What welfare and wellbeing support is available for workers?

What welfare and wellbeing support is available for workers?
  • A range of measures is in place to protect Pacific and Timor-Leste workers:
    • All PALM scheme employers are vetted and must meet stringent criteria in order to participate. This includes consideration of compliance with Australian workplace relations laws, work health and safety laws, and immigration requirements.
    • DFAT has implemented a rigorous monitoring and compliance framework which includes site visits and regular reporting requirements from employers, including analysis of pay data.
    • Monitoring visits can be virtual or in person, announced or unannounced (this includes visiting the worksite or the accommodation site and meeting with workers) and responding to tip-offs on issues.
  • Currently, as a minimum, employers of seasonal workers are required to appoint a welfare and wellbeing support officer who must meet ‘face to face’ at least fortnightly with all workers. The welfare and wellbeing support persons will be located within 300 km radius of each placement of workers.
  • Workers can also access the PALM support service line on (1800 515 131).

What is a welfare and wellbeing plan?

What is a welfare and wellbeing plan?
  • The welfare and wellbeing plan outlines arrangements that approved employers will put in place to ensure the welfare and wellbeing of workers they employ.
  • The welfare and wellbeing plan template is provided to approved employers and sets out criteria contained in the approved employer guidelines.
  • This includes the steps that will be taken to ensure workers:
    • feel comfortable raising concerns or complaints
    • know where and how to access emergency and non-emergency medical treatment
    • know the accommodation options that are available near to the work site.

What will these changes mean for our Pacific and Timor-Leste partners?

What will these changes mean for our Pacific and Timor-Leste partners?
  • COVID-19 has brought into sharp focus the value of our Pacific labour mobility initiatives, which provide tangible benefits to both our Pacific and Timor-Leste family and Australian farmers and industries.
  • The reforms will provide enhanced opportunities for workers to develop skills, earn income and send money home to support their families and communities and the economic growth of their countries.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, Pacific labour mobility has provided much needed remittance flows to Pacific countries hit hard by border closures.
  • As we look forward to a life beyond the pandemic, with an altered labour market and growing demand for Pacific and Timor-Leste workers, the new combined and streamlined PALM scheme will ensure it is best positioned for future growth.

How will employers' and other stakeholders' interests be represented under the PALM scheme?

How will employers' and other stakeholders' interests be represented under the PALM scheme?
  • PALM scheme consultative committee arrangements have been established, including a PALM Advisory Group, sector committees and thematic working groups.
  • These committees include representatives from industry, employers, Pacific and Timor-Leste diaspora, unions, community organisations and the Australian Government.
  • The PALM Advisory Group has been meeting regularly (4 meetings to date at the time of launching the PALM scheme on 4 April 2022), as well as regular meetings with committees (agriculture, meat processing, care) which are expected to continue meeting quarterly.
  • Sector committees will provide ongoing mechanisms for key stakeholders to engage with issues relevant to Pacific labour mobility and their area of interest and expertise.