Ag Visa signed into legislation

Step forward: The Ag Visa has been signed into existence, but other countries need to agree to its terms before workers can be brought in. Photo by Rodney Braithwaite

The Australian Agriculture Visa has been inked into Commonwealth law, fulfilling the National Party’s promise of creating a special visa for farm workers by year’s end.

The amendment to the Migration Regulations occurred on September 30.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the visa was the “biggest structural change to the agricultural workforce in our nation’s history”.

The Ag Visa was first revealed in June, when the UK-AUS free trade deal required Australia to exempt British working holiday makers from completing farm work.

This came after years of pressure for a proper agricultural worker visa.

The new Ag Visa is a four-year, multiple-entry temporary visa targeting seasonal workers, and skilled and semi-skilled workers.

“It (the visa) will be open to applicants from a range of countries and we are already in talks with a number of countries in our region who are eager to participate,” Mr Littleproud said.

It is expected Australia’s close neighbours — the ASEAN countries (including Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia) — will be big adopters of the Ag Visa.

Federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum said in addition to creating a more secure workforce for farmers in the Goulburn Valley, the Ag Visa would also create a new pathway to permanent residency.

“It is not just those on the farm who will benefit — the fisheries, forestry and agricultural processing sectors will also get access to workers under this visa,” Mr Drum said.

“We now have a visa that will give the Goulburn Valley a long-term, reliable workforce for our agricultural industries.”

AUSVEG and the Australian Fresh Produce Alliance welcomed the amendment to the Migration Regulations, labelling the Ag Visa a significant milestone.

The Pacific pathway will remain the key source of workers for the 2021-22 harvest.

The Ag Visa will become active once partner country negotiations are complete.