PALM Workers – Family Reunification Pilot

PALM Workers - New Family Reunification Pilot to Commence

The Migration Amendment (Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme) Regulations 2024 significantly updates the Migration Regulations 1994 to initiate a pilot program facilitating temporary residency in Australia for family members of certain long-term workers engaged in the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme. This scheme, central to Australia’s engagement in the Pacific, previously limited visa applications to the workers themselves, excluding family members.

The amendments extend eligibility to workers granted visas under the PALM scheme for one to four years, allowing them to apply for their family’s temporary stay in Australia, recognising the social costs associated with long-term family separation. The pilot aims to support 200 families in the 2023-2024 financial year, prioritizing access to childcare, schooling, employment for spouses, health services, and integration into local communities.

Applications for family members will require support in writing from a government department administering the PALM scheme. Additionally, the regulations introduce a visa application charge for secondary applicants aged 18 years and over at AUD $335 and for those under 18 at AUD $80, with the primary applicant charge remaining unchanged.

These changes are made with a focus on human rights compliance, aiming to positively impact the right to work, rights at work, respect for family, rights relating to children, the right to an adequate standard of living, and rights of equality and non-discrimination. They address the social impacts of family separation for PALM workers in Australia, ensuring well-supported adaptation to life in Australia for participating families.

The amendments also reflect administrative changes, removing exclusive references to the Department of Foreign Affairs as the scheme’s administrator, acknowledging the joint management by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations. This amendment is aimed at future-proofing the legislation against potential government changes.

Set to commence on 25 March 2024, these regulations are part of Australia’s ongoing commitment to deepening ties with Pacific nations and Timor-Leste, fostering greater inclusion and support for migrant workers and their families under the PALM scheme.