Frequently asked questionsTo 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?
- 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 and agriculture-related food product manufacturing, where there are no postcode restrictions.
- 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 did the PALM scheme visa commence?
- On 4 April, the Subclass 403 Temporary Work (International Relations) Visa - Pacific Australia Labour Mobility stream came into effect. This created the new consolidated PALM scheme visa stream. It extends visa validity for up to 4 years for long term placements and introduces the ability for seasonal workers to transfer into longer-term roles onshore where eligible.
Who is primarily responsible for the management and operation of the PALM scheme?
- The PALM scheme is managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) with the support of an external provider, the Pacific Labour Facility (PLF).
- DFAT, DEWR and the PLF will continue to work closely with other responsible government agencies including the Department of Home Affairs, Australian Border Force and the Fair Work Ombudsman to ensure the integrity of the scheme is maintained.
What changes to the PALM scheme were announced in the 2023-24 Federal Budget?
- The 2023-24 Budget further improves and expands the PALM scheme in line with Australian, Pacific and Timor-Leste aspirations.
- The Government will:
- strengthen oversight of domestic operations as part of improved support for PALM scheme workers
- responsibly grow the PALM scheme and better support employers and participating countries
- support more than 1,000 PALM scheme workers to attain formal qualifications over 4 years
- increase support to make it easier for PALM scheme workers to access their superannuation savings when they return home
- provide access to Medicare for an initial 200 families who will participate in the PALM scheme family accompaniment pilot.
- For more information, please read the PALM scheme reforms factsheet, or the full PALM scheme reforms FAQs.
Who can I contact with questions?
- Please contact the PALM support service line at (1800 515 131) if you have any questions, or email (email@example.com). Please note the support service line and email inbox are monitored 7am-7pm AEST - calls after hours should be for critical incidents only.
How is the Australian Government improving the PALM scheme?
- In addition to the outcomes of the 2023-24 Budget (above), the Australian Government is in the process of implementing its previous commitments aimed at strengthening Australia's Pacific and Timor-Leste partnerships by delivering a comprehensive package of policy reforms to improve and expand the PALM scheme to secure our region and build a stronger Pacific and Timor-Leste family.
- The Government will allow long-term PALM scheme workers to bring their families to Australia in the second half of 2023, enable a further 500 PALM scheme workers to complete their aged care certification, and make short term/seasonal deployments more attractive to Australian employers by reducing the burden of upfront travel costs. The Australian Agriculture Visa (AAV) program has been relocated under the PALM scheme.
- The Government has committed to improving administration of the scheme including:
- reducing red tape for all PALM scheme employers and reviewing administration and regulation of the scheme
- improving workplace standards for PALM scheme workers and implementing recommendations of the Migrant Workers' Taskforce
- improving consultation with all stakeholders
- more effectively promoting the scheme in the Pacific and Timor-Leste in cooperation with Pacific and Timor-Leste governments.
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 until consolidation.
What are the 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?
- 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?
- Under the PALM scheme there are 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 have been operating 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).
If I am an SWP approved employer, can I still contact my contract manager?
- Yes. Until an SWP approved employer has signed the new PALM scheme deed and all contract management functions have been transferred to the PLF, SWP contract managers can still be contacted.
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?
- 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 applications.
- 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.
How long does an accommodation plan last?
- Accommodation plans are valid for the life of the Deed of Agreement (whether SWP or PLS).
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.
- From mid-2023 the Government will reimburse costs that cannot be recouped from seasonal workers through no fault of the employer, e.g. where workers disengage.
- Employers will still be required to make a $300 contribution to workers' flights.
- Long-term workers may elect to organise their own flights. However, in most situations approved employers will organise a one-way flight to Australia for long-term workers and pay the costs upfront. These costs may be recouped from workers through pay deductions.
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?
- 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.
What if I am not eligible for the PALM scheme?
- The Australian Government acknowledges that while the PALM scheme is a highly valued program that is helping Australian businesses address workforce shortages, it should not be treated as a single solution to meeting the workforce needs of all sectors or employers.
- The Government has a number of available employment services to assist you with your workforce needs. This includes the Local Jobs Program and Workforce Australia, delivered by DEWR.
- Under the Local Jobs Program there is an Employment Facilitator in each of the 51 regions that oversees and supports the delivery of the program. You can find the Local Jobs Employment Facilitator in your region on the DEWR website.
- Employers operating in the horticulture industry in a PALM scheme geographic footprint that is also identified as a Harvest Area can utilise Harvest Trail Services, a free specialised job placement service that links workers (both working holiday makers and Australian job seekers) with seasonal harvest jobs. You can find more information on Harvest Trail services on the DEWR website.
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?
- If you are an approved employer, you can submit recruitment applications at any time.
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)
- 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?
- 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 application to mobilisation?
- It takes around 8-12 weeks to mobilise workers from when a recruitment application 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 the Australian Government (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.
How do employers apply for a temporary activity sponsorship (TAS)?
- Until October 2022, the TAS application form has included a section that requires PALM scheme approved employers (Endorsed Sponsors) to provide an endorsement number. This is no longer the case as DFAT are no longer providing these numbers to approved employers.
- To apply for a TAS, please visit Become a sponsor Temporary activities sponsor (homeaffairs.gov.au).
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.
- 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.
- New approved employers can request a review and increase of their recruitment cap when they can demonstrate they have recruited workers for longer than 4 months.
What postcode restrictions apply in the PALM scheme?
- PALM scheme employers are able to hire workers in all regional and rural postcodes for ALL sectors (including accommodation) except for agriculture and select agriculture-related food product manufacturing sectors, where there are no postcode restrictions.
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?
- 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?
- 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.
I would like to come to Australia to work under the PALM scheme. How can I apply?
- Interested workers should contact the LSU in their country. Workers must be a minimum of 21 years of age for both seasonal and long-term cohorts under the PALM scheme.
What visa do I need to become a PALM scheme worker?
- All new PALM scheme workers must apply for a Subclass 403 visa in the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility stream.
- There are 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.
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 application 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) throughout the process.
Can I switch from a PLS or SWP 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 application 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 a 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- All new 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- The Australian Government 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?
- 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.
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 and committees (agriculture, meat processing, care) meet 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.
What tax rate should a seasonal worker pay?
- Workers participating in the seasonal or short-term stream of the PALM scheme (9 months) will have a 15% tax flat rate withheld on payments made to them by their employer. Due to the length of time in Australia, under the short-term visa stream, workers are considered non-residents of Australia for tax purposes and are not required to complete tax returns at the end of the financial year.
What tax rate should a long-term worker pay?
- Long-term workers are considered Australian residents for tax purposes. Their tax rate is calculated on weekly earnings and is applied at the same rate as all Australian workers. For more details about the tax rates for resident individuals, see individual income tax rates on the Australian Taxation Office website.
How is the Pacific Engagement Visa (PEV) different to the PALM scheme?
The Pacific Engagement Visa (PEV) is a new permanent resident visa program for participating countries across the Pacific and Timor-Leste, commencing in July 2023. It is aimed at building greater people, cultural, business, and educational links between Australia and the Pacific.
The PALM scheme is a temporary migration program that will continue to help meet workforce shortages in rural and regional Australia, support the economic development of Pacific countries, and build skills for when workers return home.
PALM scheme participants in Australia on valid temporary visas will be eligible to enter the PEV ballot when registrations open.
For more information on the differences between the PALM scheme and PEV, please refer to the factsheet: [PDF 312 KB] | [DOCX 351 KB] and FAQs: [PDF 295 KB] | [DOCX 463 KB].