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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 accredited businesses that operate largely in rural and regional Australia to recruit workers from 9 Pacific island countries and Timor-Leste.

As part of the scheme, workers can be employed for up to 9 months under the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) – and can return in following years – or for between one and 3 years through the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS).

While participating businesses will still recruit workers through the existing SWP or PLS streams, the new application process will make it easier for PALM scheme employers to begin the process of finding the staff they need. For more information, please read this document: PALM scheme fact sheet [PDF 303 KB] | PALM scheme fact sheet [DOCX 207 KB].

Does the new identity and brand mean the SWP and PLS no longer exist as separate programs?

Does the new identity and brand mean the SWP and PLS no longer exist as separate programs?

The SWP and PLS will continue to operate under current arrangements, but access for new employers will occur through a single application process.

The SWP is still administered by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE), while the PLS is still administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), via the Pacific Labour Facility (PLF).

I’m a current SWP and/or PLS employer. How will the changes benefit me?

I’m a current SWP and/or PLS employer. How will the changes benefit me?

If you are an SWP or PLS employer, you will still be able to recruit Pacific and Timorese workers in seasonal work for up to 9 months or longer-term positions for up to 3 years, subject to signing the relevant Deed of Agreement.

Under the PALM scheme, you may have the option to be mutually recognised under both programs. This means, if you choose to opt in, you can recruit under either the SWP or the PLS, or both.

You will also benefit from the scale-up of worker arrivals between now and March 2022, and expanded access to recruit workers into the agriculture and accommodation sectors.

Current employers will see less red tape – with labour market testing remaining valid for longer periods and SWP recruitment caps doubled for eligible employers. 

For  full list of changes, please read the PALM scheme fact sheet – or for more information on mutual recognition, please read the full mutual recognition FAQs.

PALM scheme fact sheet [PDF 303 KB] | PALM scheme fact sheet [DOCX 207 KB]

Frequently asked questions on mutual recognition [PDF 203 KB] | Frequently asked questions on mutual recognition [DOCX 214 KB]

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 single 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 an SWP or PLS labour hire firm or contractor. For more information on these, please refer to this list of current SWP and PLS employers.

I’m currently working in Australia under the SWP/PLS. Will the changes affect my job?

I’m currently working in Australia under the SWP/PLS. Will the changes affect my job?

Your current job will not change under the new PALM scheme because your employer will still be operating under the current SWP or PLS agreements.

In some circumstances, the continuation of COVID-19 arrangements allowing workers to move to another employer within the relevant program (e.g., SWP employer to SWP employer) on completion of their contracts may lead to further work opportunities.

Under the PALM scheme, PLS workers who have spent 3 years in Australia as a holder of one or more PLS visas can now apply for a new PLS (subclass 403) visa to remain in Australia for a further 12 months while COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in place.

In addition, a new skills development program will give workers access to training while living and working in Australia, improving their technical skills and knowledge. Please visit the skills development page on this website for more information.

All workers will continue to receive the same protections as other workers under Australia’s workplace laws, as well as the same high level of support that they have received to date. Find out more on the worker support page on this website.

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.

How many more workers will be able to be recruited through the PALM scheme?

How many more workers will be able to be recruited through the PALM scheme?

Worker recruitment will continue to be driven by demand from PALM scheme employers, subject to state and territory COVID-19 quarantine requirements.

There has been strong growth in recruitment numbers in recent years for both the SWP and PLS, and this trend is expected to continue. Pacific workers can only be recruited where no suitable Australian workers are available to fill jobs.

In response to increasing demand, the Australian Government is working with Pacific governments, states and territories to rapidly scale up Pacific labour mobility by bringing an additional 12,500 workers to Australia by March 2022 to support critical sectors such as agriculture, accommodation, hospitality and aged care. 

Under the new PALM scheme arrangements, recruitment caps have also been doubled for existing PALM scheme employers with a good record that also have the financial capacity to support additional worker arrivals.

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 a job before it is offered to workers from the Pacific or Timor-Leste under the SWP or the PLS.

Under the SWP and the PLS, you must submit evidence of labour market testing for each recruitment application. The validity of labour market testing has been increased to 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 someone who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident.

What support do workers receive under the new PALM scheme?

What support do workers receive under the new PALM scheme?

Workers participating in the PALM scheme have the same rights and protections as Australian workers. The Fair Work Ombudsman has an important role in providing information and advice about wages and entitlements, and workplace rights and obligations.

In addition, the respective requirements for SWP and PLS employers to provide worker welfare and wellbeing support will continue under the new arrangements.

DESE contract managers and Pacific labour mobility officers will continue to support SWP workers, and the Community Connections initiative will help to create links between workers and their host communities.

The PLF worker welfare team will provide ongoing support to support PLS workers, and country liaison officers will offer assistance and advice for workers in both programs.

Built-in systems help protect workers against exploitation and regular check-ins are conducted to ensure that workers’ conditions meet the required standards. A 24-hour PALM scheme telephone hotline ensures that workers can receive help and advice whenever they need it. For more information, please visit the worker support page on this website.

How will mutual recognition work in practice?

How will mutual recognition work in practice?

If you are an SWP employer, you will receive a letter from the PLF inviting you to express interest in joining the PLS.

After receiving your expression of interest and completed template attached to the letter, the PLF will send you the PLS Deed of Agreement to execute together with relevant documents to complete.

If you are a PLS employer, the communication will come from DESE requesting you follow the same process to join the SWP.

For more information on mutual recognition, please read the full mutual recognition FAQs: Frequently asked questions on mutual recognition [PDF 203 KB] | Frequently asked questions on mutual recognition [DOCX 214 KB].

I am an SWP employer. If I choose to join the PLS, can I transfer my current SWP workers to the PLS?

I am an SWP employer. If I choose to join the PLS, can I transfer my current SWP workers to the PLS?

No. Your current SWP workers are on an SWP 403 visa or 408 Pandemic visa. They cannot be transferred to a PLS 403 visa in Australia.

When your current SWP workers finish their current employment with you and go home, you can choose to sponsor them to come back to Australia as a PLS worker (on a PLS 403 visa) after you become a PLS employer.

Why are Pacific workers able to enter Australia when its borders are closed?

Why are Pacific workers able to enter Australia when its borders are closed?

Due to ongoing workforce shortages in critical industries, the Australian Government agreed SWP and PLS workers would be exempt from Australia’s border closures on the condition that they were not displacing Australian workers and that the states and territories had sufficient quarantine places to accommodate them.

As a PALM scheme employer, do I have to pay for the costs of quarantine?

As a PALM scheme employer, do I have to pay for the costs of quarantine?

One of the conditions for recommencing the SWP and the PLS was that the cost of quarantine would not be transferred to the worker.

In some states and territories, the cost of quarantine is subsidised by the relevant state/territory government. For more information, talk to your industry representative or relevant contacts in state and territory government.

I’m interested in becoming a PALM scheme employer. How will the changes benefit me?

I’m interested in becoming a PALM scheme employer. How will the changes benefit me?

You will benefit from a simplified and more streamlined application approval process, where you will only have to apply once to become a PALM scheme employer.

Once your application is approved, you will be able to recruit under both the SWP for seasonal workers for up to 9 months, and the PLS for longer-term workers for between one and 3 years, rather than having to apply for both programs separately.

Additional flexibilities for new employers include expanding the eligibility criteria to enable more accommodation employers to recruit seasonal workers, removing PLS postcode restrictions for employers in the agriculture sector, and removing the upper age limit of 45 years for PLS workers, among others.

These changes build on the Prime Minister’s commitment to work with Pacific Governments, states and territories to bring an additional 12,500 Pacific workers to Australia by March 2022.

Combined, the measures will deliver immediate improvements, including expanded access to Pacific workers and reduced red tape for new and existing employers.

For a full list of additional flexibilities, please read this document: PALM scheme fact sheet [PDF 303 KB] | PALM scheme fact sheet [DOCX 207 KB].

How does the PALM scheme skills development program work?

How does the PALM scheme skills development program work?

The PALM scheme skills development program provides workers from the Pacific and Timor-Leste with access to training while they are living and working in Australia.

The program benefits both workers and employers by improving workers’ technical knowledge and abilities and increasing general business productivity.

Funding is available for PALM scheme employers participating in both the SWP and the PLS. The funds contribute to the costs of both accredited and non-accredited training for workers, covering employability and life skills, job skills and formal qualifications.

How do employers apply for funding through the PALM scheme skills development program?

How do employers apply for funding through the PALM scheme skills development program?

SWP and PLS employers can access funding for skills development for their workers by downloading the application form from the PALM scheme website.

Completed employer applications should be emailed to (training@pacificlabourfacility.com.au) by close of business on the 7th day of each month. They will then be assessed by the PLF, and employers will be notified of the outcome.

For more information, please also email (training@pacificlabourfacility.com.au) or phone (+61 2 3557 7766).

What is the PALM Advisory Group?

What is the PALM Advisory Group?

The PALM Advisory Group has been created to give key stakeholders the opportunity to contribute to the strategic direction of Australia’s labour mobility programs.

Made up of employer representatives, industry peak bodies, Pacific government and Timor-Leste representatives, community sector organisations, and Australian Government agencies, the group will be jointly chaired by DESE and DFAT.

It was established in response to the recent Pacific labour mobility consultation which sought to give all stakeholders, including Pacific and Timor-Leste representatives, a chance to discuss the broad concerns of Pacific labour initiatives in Australia.

For more information please visit the PALM Advisory Group page on this website, or read the terms of reference for the group below.

PALM Advisory Group terms of reference [PDF 304 KB] | PALM Advisory Group terms of reference [Word 224 KB]

What has changed under the new PALM scheme?

What has changed under the new PALM scheme?

In response to a public consultation process several SWP and PLS program settings have changed to make them more aligned and flexible under the new PALM scheme.

These include a single application for new employers to allow them to join both programs through the one process, and the mutual recognition of most current PLS and SWP employers. This means that if eligible employers opt in, they’ll be able to recruit under either or both programs.

Additional flexibilities include expanding the eligibility criteria to enable more accommodation employers to recruit seasonal workers, removing PLS postcode restrictions for employers in the agriculture sector, and removing the upper age limit of 45 years for PLS workers, among others.

For a full list of additional flexibilities, please read this document: PALM scheme fact sheet [PDF 303 KB] | PALM scheme fact sheet [DOCX 207 KB].

I’m currently working in Australia under the SWP/PLS. If my visa expires while COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in place, can I continue to work in Australia?

I’m currently working in Australia under the SWP/PLS. If my visa expires while COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in place, can I continue to work in Australia?

In response to COVID-19, the Australian Government introduced temporary changes to visa arrangements for affected SWP and PLS workers. These changes allow Pacific and Timorese workers to continue working in Australia during the pandemic, and be redeployed where required. 

In addition, PLS workers who have spent 3 years in Australia as a holder of one or more PLS visas can apply for a new PLS visa to remain in Australia for a further 12 months while COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in place.

For information on how to stay in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit the Department of Home Affairs COVID-19 website. Or, for general health advice and information about COVID-19, please visit the Department of Health website.

Can all SWP employers access the accommodation sector?

Can all SWP employers access the accommodation sector?

Access to the accommodation sector will be now be available to SWP approved employers in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Tropical North Queensland, Kangaroo Island and all other parts of rural and regional Australia. Eligible regional and rural postcodes for this sector will align for both the SWP and the PLS.

Employers in those regions will benefit from having access to a greater pool of workers to address ongoing workforce shortages in the accommodation sector. A list of eligible postcodes for SWP and PLS accommodation employers is available on the employer eligibility page on this website.