Skip to main content

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 eligible Australian businesses to hire workers from 9 Pacific island countries and Timor-Leste when there are not enough local workers available. 
  • PALM scheme employers can hire workers to fill unskilled, low-skilled or semi-skilled positions for short-term placements of up to 9 months or long-term placements of between one and 4 years.
  • Short-term and long-term workers can be employed 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 an approved employer and hire from either or both cohorts of workers under the PALM scheme.

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 is managed by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
  • DEWR and DFAT 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.

Who can I contact with questions?

Who can I contact with questions?
  • Please contact the PALM scheme support service line at (1800 515 131) if you have any questions, or email (palm@dewr.gov.au). Please note the support service line and email inbox are monitored 8.30 am to 6.30 pm AEST – calls after hours should be for critical incidents only.

When did the PALM scheme visa commence?

When did the PALM scheme visa commence?
  • On 4 April 2022, the Subclass 403 Temporary Work (International Relations) Visa - Pacific Australia Labour Mobility stream came into effect. This created the consolidated PALM scheme visa stream. It extends visa validity for up to 4 years for long-term worker placements and enables eligible short-term workers to transfer into long-term placements onshore.

What welfare and wellbeing support is available for workers?

What welfare and wellbeing support is available for workers?
  • PALM scheme employers are required to provide ongoing wellbeing and welfare support for workers as part of their conditions for participation in the scheme.
  • A range of measures is in place to protect Pacific and Timor-Leste workers:
    • All PALM scheme employers must meet stringent criteria in order to participate in the scheme. 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.
  • Employers are required to appoint a welfare and wellbeing support officer who must meet with all workers in person every fortnight as a minimum. Welfare and wellbeing support persons must be located within a 200 km radius of each placement of workers.
  • Workers can also access the PALM support service line on (1800 515 131) between 8.30 am and 6.30 pm AEST. Calls after hours should be for critical incidents only.

What is the process for lodging grievances in the PALM scheme?

What is the process for lodging grievances in the PALM scheme?

The PALM scheme grievance management policy provides clear information and guidance on how DEWR will manage grievances (unresolved conflicts) between PALM scheme workers and employers to ensure they are managed in a way that is fair, accessible, responsive, efficient and integrated within the PALM scheme's core business.

The policy will be regularly reviewed and updated as appropriate to ensure it continues to be fit for purpose and is effectively addressing unresolved grievances for PALM scheme workers. 

A PALM scheme grievance lodgement form is also available.

What changes to the PALM scheme were announced in the 2023-24 Federal Budget?

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.

What has happened to the Pandemic Event (subclass 408) visa?

What has happened to the Pandemic Event (subclass 408) visa?
  • The Pandemic Event (subclass 408) visa will be closed out - in a staged manner. From 2 September 2023, the Pandemic Event visa will only be open to applications from existing Pandemic Event visa holders (with an A$405 visa application charge). The visa will close to all applicants on 1 February 2024. This may impact PALM scheme workers who hold a Pandemic Event visa as well as their employers. 
  • For further information, please refer to the Department of Home Affairs website, this factsheet (available in sending country languages) and these detailed frequently asked questions.

How is the Australian Government improving the PALM scheme?

How is the Australian Government improving the PALM scheme?
  • In addition to the changes announced in the 2023-24 Budget, the Australian Government is implementing its previous commitments aimed at strengthening Australia's Pacific and Timor-Leste partnerships, 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 2024, enable a further 500 PALM scheme workers to complete their aged care certification, and make short term deployments more attractive to Australian employers by reducing the burden of upfront travel costs. The Australian Agriculture Visa 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 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 participating countries in cooperation with Pacific and Timor-Leste governments.

What is the Pacific Engagement Visa and how is it different to the PALM scheme?

What is the Pacific Engagement Visa and how is it different to the PALM scheme?
  • The Pacific Engagement Visa (PEV) is a new permanent resident visa for participating countries across the Pacific and Timor-Leste. It is aimed at building greater people, cultural, business, and educational links between Australia, the Pacific and Timor-Leste.
  • 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 Timor-Leste, and help workers build skills and experience.
  • 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].

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 employers must demonstrate they have well-considered plans in place to ensure workers’ wellbeing is a key priority.
  • It is also important for employers to demonstrate they have the financial resources to cover the upfront and ongoing costs of engaging PALM scheme workers. For more information visit the employers page on this website.

Who is responsible for paying workers’ visa costs?

Who is responsible for paying workers’ visa costs?
  • PALM scheme employers are responsible for paying the upfront cost of workers’ visas and submitting visa applications on behalf of workers, with participating 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 the PALM scheme deed.

Who is responsible for paying workers' travel costs?

Who is responsible for paying workers' travel costs?
  • PALM scheme employers must organise and pay for the upfront travel costs to and from Australia for their workers. Employers may recoup any amount over the first $300 but no more than the amount set out in the international airfares and domestic transportation matrix.
  • From mid-2023 the government will reimburse costs that cannot be recouped from short-term 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.

What if I am not eligible for the PALM scheme?

What if I am not eligible for the PALM scheme?
  • If you are not eligible or do not feel you are able to meet the requirements of the PALM scheme, you may wish to work with an approved PALM scheme labour hire firm or contractor. For more information on these, please refer to this list of current PALM scheme employers.
  • There are also several government employment services you can use to assist you with your workforce needs. This includes the Local Jobs Program, Harvest Trail Services (for employers in the horticulture industry) and Workforce Australia, delivered by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.

How do approved employers recruit workers?

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

Why is there a cap on the number of workers that a PALM scheme employer can recruit?

Why is there a cap on the number of workers that a PALM scheme employer can recruit?
  • New PALM scheme employers receive a cap on the number of workers they can hire when entering the scheme. 
  • Employers can request a review and increase of their recruitment cap when they can demonstrate they have recruited workers for longer than 4 months through the scheme.

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

What is the timeline from submitting a recruitment application to mobilisation?
  • It takes a minimum of 8 weeks to mobilise workers from when a recruitment application is submitted and approved (provided all documentation is ‘decision ready’ at the time of submission).
  • In the first few weeks after submitting a recruitment application, 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 Department of Employment and Workplace Relations reviews welfare and wellbeing plans, labour market testing, offers of employment and accommodation plans. Once approvals are given, recruitment visa processes and supporting activities can commence.
  • Please note: LSUs will not prioritise queries from any employers who are not yet approved as PALM scheme employers.

What is a welfare and wellbeing plan?

What is a welfare and wellbeing plan?
  • The welfare and wellbeing plan outlines arrangements PALM scheme 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 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 their work site.

What is labour market testing?

What is labour market testing?
  • Labour market testing is an important part of the recruitment process. It ensures Australian jobseekers are given the opportunity to take up jobs before they are offered to workers under the PALM scheme.
  • Under the PALM scheme, employers 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 PALM scheme employers can demonstrate unmet labour need and have genuinely attempted to employ suitable Australian workers first. An Australian worker is an Australian citizen or permanent resident.

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?
  • Accommodation is a challenging aspect of supporting workers while they are in Australia.
  • If a PALM scheme employer has had an accommodation site previously approved for the Seasonal Worker Programme or Pacific Labour Scheme, they will not need to complete the standard accommodation plan process.

What are the accommodation requirements for the PALM scheme?

What are the accommodation requirements for the PALM scheme?
  • Worker accommodation is provided by PALM scheme employers in accordance with the deed and guidelines
  • Accommodation must:
    • 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.

What are the minimum hourly wage guarantees for pieceworkers?

What are the minimum hourly wage guarantees for pieceworkers?
  • From 28 April 2022, 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, please visit the Fair Work Commission website to read the decision and final determination.

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 PALM scheme employers. These funds are intended to contribute to the costs of both accredited and non-accredited training for workers.

What industries can PALM scheme employers recruit workers in?

What industries can PALM scheme employers recruit workers in?
  • The Australian Government has committed to expand and improve the PALM scheme and is developing a robust approach to assess the feasibility and risks of recruiting workers in new sectors for which PALM scheme workers have not historically been recruited, that is, outside of agriculture, meat processing, aged care, hospitality and tourism. Over the coming months, the government will consider expanding further into new sectors, and in sectors with small numbers of workers.

Can I move to a long-term placement from a short-term placement?

Can I move to a long-term placement from a short-term placement?
  • Short-term PALM scheme workers may be eligible to transition to a long-term placement without having to leave Australia.
  • Subclass 408 visa holders are not eligible to apply for a long-term PALM scheme placement.

What are mandatory offshore periods?

What are mandatory offshore periods?
  • Short-term PALM scheme workers must spend a mandatory period of 3 months offshore each year. This means workers must leave for 3 months after being in Australia for 9 months, before starting another short-term PALM scheme placement.
  • Long-term workers must spend a mandatory period of 6 months offshore after 4 years of participation in the PALM scheme. This means workers must leave for 6 months after being in Australia for 4 years, before starting another long-term PALM scheme placement.