Agriculture visa subclass 403 is a visa program specially designed for farmer workers to come to Australia and work in farms. Agriculture visa is now merged with the subclass 408 Pacific Labour Scheme (PALM) and is only available to passport holders of certain Pacific Island countries.
The agriculture visa subclass 403 is a temporary work (International Relations) visa with a PR (permanent resident) pathway. This visa supports Australia’s agricultural and primary industry sectors with farm workers shortage.
Agriculture visa subclass 403 allows workers in a range of agriculture sectors and skill levels from certain Southeast Asia countries to work in Australia.
Applicants for the agriculture visa subclass 403 must be sponsored and work with approved employers. This new visa allows for more flexibility by allowing workers to change their employer (employer must be a TAS).
The agriculture visa program is managed by the DFAT and the Department of Home Affairs is responsible for sponsorship and visa applications. The Fair Work Ombudsman is responsible for making sure workers on this visa is protected from employers attempting to abuse their rights.
Which agriculture sectors can you work?
The agriculture visa subclass 403 allows you to work in the following agriculture sectors (including support and primary processing):
Who can apply for agriculture visa subclass 403?
This visa is for those who are skilled, semi-skilled and low-skilled workers within specified occupations across the above sectors. You must have the experience and/or qualifications at the skill level and occupation.
You can only apply for the agriculture visa subclass 403 if you holds a passport from certain selected countries that participate in this program.
What are the requirements to apply for agriculture visa subclass 403?
- have the necessary skills to perform the job you are offered
- English proficiency, for e.g., at least average of 4.0 in IELTS (higher if the occupation requires it)
- not bring your family members
- be at least 21 (no maximum age requirement)
- be sponsored by a TAS
- supported by DFAT
- meet character and health requirements
- have health insurance
Temporary Activity Sponsor
You can only apply for this visa if your employer is approved as a Temporary Activity Sponsor or TAS, usually approved for up to 5 years.
A TAS must be an Australian company operating in Australia. They cannot be an individual, sole trader. TAS must be able to meet their sponsorship obligations, have a good business record, obey Australian laws.
To become a TAS, your sponsor must be approved by DFAT. However, employers wishing to employ agriculture visa subclass 403 visa holders who are already in Australia need to be approved to participate in the program but are not required to be a TAS.
Employers wanting to participate in the agriculture visa subclass 403 program must:
- become an approved employer by showing they are currently an approved employer under the PALM scheme; or currently accredited under an endorsed industry accreditation scheme and is financially solvent and comply with Fair Work Ombudsman requirements; or applied to become an approved employer under the agriculture visa subclass 403 program, is financially solvent and comply with Fair Work Ombudsman requirements
- sign a Deed of Agreement with DFAT setting out their obligations, including worker protections, conditions and standards
TAS procedure to employ agriculture workers
Once approved to become a TAS, the process of recruiting workers involves:
- provide DFAT with LMT
- provide DFAT with recruitment, accommodation (workers can seek their own accommodation) and transport plan to DFTA
- provider workers with an offer of employment that set out information about the nature of the employment, wages and conditions, and arrangements allowing workers to change employers
- provide pre-departure briefing, including information on life, culture and workplace rights in Australia and rights and obligations under the agriculture visa subclass 403 program
Once the above is completed, the TAS must arrange for visas and travel for the workers; offer DFAT approved accommodation options; and provide on-arrival briefing to the workers; invite the Fair Work Ombudsman and any relevant union representative to be present.
Other visa programs for the agriculture sectors
As from March 2022 (subject to change without notice), the Department has provided flexibility for visa holders working in agriculture sector, they include:
- allowing international students (subclass 500 – click here for more information) to work more than 40 hours per fortnight
- allowing Working Holiday Makers (click here to learn more about this visa) to be exempted from the 6 months limitation working for 1 employer
- permitting Working Holiday Makers to apply for further visa to continue working in agriculture for another 12 months
- permitting workers under the Pacific Labour Scheme (PALM) and Seasonal Worker program to further employment in the agriculture sector and to work for more than 1 approved employer
- allowing visa holders who are in Australia and with work rights to apply for COVID-19 Pandemic Event (subclass 408 – click here to learn more) visa to extend their stay for another 12 months
How long will the agriculture visa subclass 403 last?
You can apply to be a short-term or seasonal work, you will be granted up to 9 months in every 12 months. You can apply for a visa for up to 4 years to undertake seasonal work every year. You will be required to return home after each season. Your employer will need to offer you certain minimum hours of work.
Long-term applicants will be granted a visa for between 1 and 4 years. Your employer will need to offer you full-time employment.
There is a PR pathway, including regional settlement, for workers holding agriculture visa subclass 403.
Australian migration law is complex and difficult to understand, contact our immigration lawyer for a consultation (fee applies) to help you decide if you are eligible to apply for the agriculture visa subclass 403.
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This article is not intended to be or taken as migration legal advice. The author of this article disclaims any liability for any action or omission on the information provided or not provided in this article. You should always consult an immigration lawyer or a registered migration agent to form an informed opinion on your immigration matter.