A three-year stint in the Northern Territory can now offer a direct pathway to permanent residency for overseas tech workers and other professionals under a new bilateral visa agreement scheme.

The Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA II) between the NT Government and Federal Government came into effect on 1 January and opens the territory’s doors to skilled migrants in 117 occupations.

Federal Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, David Coleman, said the initiative was a way to disperse Australia’s foreign workers away from major cities.

“The Government is working to improve our immigration program to better match the needs of our states, territories and regional areas,” he said.

“Our first priority is always to fill jobs with Australians, but the immigration system can play an important role in helping to address regional skills gaps.

“The NT has seen first-hand the benefits of using a DAMA to respond to their unique workforce shortages.

“I am pleased that we can continue to partner with the NT Government to support the skills needs of local businesses where Australian workers are not available to fill those jobs.”

The five-year bilateral migration agreement is the second of its kind.

DAMA II visa holders can apply for permanent residency after working in the NT for at least three years.

The previous DAMA did not include the same pathway to permanent residency.

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the territory government “fought hard for the inclusion of the pathway to permanent residency”.

Amongst the job titles of the DAMA II are ICT customer support officer, ICT support technicians nec (not elsewhere classified), web administrator and web designer.

The jobs included “reflect NT skilled and semi-skilled shortages” according to the NT government website.

Workers must demonstrate relevant qualifications and experience, depending on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) skill level of their occupation.

The DAMA II uses the labour agreement stream of the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa, with workers granted a TSS visa once the business and government enter an agreement.

Businesses looking to access the DAMA II must have been operational for at least 12 months, can demonstrate they cannot fill the position locally and provide terms and conditions in accordance to those offered to local workers.

Businesses must also show that overseas workers will be offered at least the local market rate for the occupation in which they will be sponsored.