Rules relaxed for rural labour

Rob Harris - AAPCountryman
The changes have been welcomed by farm groups.
Camera IconThe changes have been welcomed by farm groups. Credit: Countryman, Danella Bevis

Farmers struggling with labour shortages will find it easier to take on skilled foreign workers under a relaxation of visa rules.

Skilled migrants will now be able to get four-year working visas provided they remain in a specified region and take up agricultural roles such as in beef, dairy, sheep and crop farming.

Updates to the country’s list of skilled occupations follow recent changes to the working holiday maker and seasonal worker visa programs.

“We want Australians filling Australian jobs but when this isn’t possible action is needed to ensure farmers can continue to operate,” Immigration Minister David Coleman said on Monday.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.


The agricultural sector, including the National Farmers’ Federation, has been calling for a specific visa for farm workers but Assistant Agriculture Minister Richard Colbeck last week said it wasn’t needed given changes already in train.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last year committed to an agriculture visa in the medium to long-term after a failed push from the Nationals to get the proposal in place before harvest time.

Shadow immigration minister Shayne Neumann said the Government should make the training of Australian workers a priority.

“More and more occupations have crept their way on to the skilled occupation lists under the Liberals — with no guarantees from the Morrison Government that local workers won’t be overlooked for overseas workers on 457-style visas,” he said.

Labor has pledged to set up a new Australian Skills Authority to independently conduct labour market testing to determine genuine skills needs and restrict temporary work visas to those areas.

New eight-year visas will also be available for sponsored footballers, tennis coaches, dancers and artistic directors, which are among eight professions that are being added to the long-term skills list.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails