Enterprise migration agreement talks begin

Date: Feb 14, 2012

A number of mining companies have reportedly begun talks with government officials over the use of the new Enterprise Migration Agreements (EMA).

As experienced migration lawyers know, these arrangements work in a similar way to the Regional Migration Agreements (RMA) - except that instead of applying purely to businesses in a geographic location, they relate to a specific company, project or consortium.

When they are finally released for regular use, the EMAs will allow firms to apply blanket conditions to the application for skilled migrant workers - instead of sorting out the details for each new staff member on an individual basis.

However, they are not freely available to just any business - the new migration agreements will carry with them a number of requirements.

For instance, for a project to qualify for an EMA it needs to have a minimum in capital expenditure of $2 billion and require a peak body of workers in excess of 1,500 - volumes that are generally out of reach of more conservative developments.

In WA, NSW and Queensland, these arrangements will be especially useful for resource companies that are struggling to find the skilled workers they need to advance their interests from within the local labour pool.

Some experts have expressed concerns that certain industries such as construction and engineering may see a shortfall of up to 40,000 workers by the year 2020 if the current rate of expansion continues without change.

While some projects have been able to make use of fly-in fly-out arrangements, others require a more permanent base of employees.

These are the firms that will be able to benefit the most from the deployment of EMAs - which have yet to become publicly available.

As with many other arrangements regulated by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the new migration agreements would still be subject to certain regulations.

According to the Queensland minister for mining Stirling Hinchliffe, the state government would adopt the position that required resource businesses to source their labour locally and only use skilled migrant workers as a back-up plan.

Hinchcliffe explained to reporters on February 14: "I have given a very clear message to the companies involved ... that we have a very high expectation about the role that Queenslanders will play in these projects."

A team of immigration lawyers can help local businesses out by determining how skilled migrant visas may be of use to their particular situation.