AUSVEG has been advocating for the vegetable industry to source a reliable workforce to secure enough labour to meet the requirements of the sector across the supply chain since before COVID-19 pandemic. One of the overseas worker programs that was established between AUSVEG, the broader horticulture industry and Government was the Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement (HILA) which came into effect just months before the pandemic started. With international borders now largely open around the globe, it is relevant to once again refresh growers on the HILA scheme.

From 1 January 2020, businesses in Australia’s horticulture industry were able to apply for the Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement (HILA). AUSVEG is the lead industry agency for the HILA and the Government consults with AUSVEG on any proposed changes to the scheme.

The HILA enables approved businesses to sponsor skilled and semi-skilled overseas workers from a select list of occupations to fill jobs where growers can demonstrate there are no local workers able or willing to fill them.

The HILA is the largest and most comprehensive labour agreement in Australia following the acceptance of 31 occupations as well as important concessions to the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT). Workers can be 50 years of age, or younger at the time of applying, and guaranteed earnings can include both monetary payments and non-monetary benefits (such as accommodation).

Occupations include Horticulture Farm Manager, Cold Storage Manager, Horticulture Plant Manager, Forklift Driver and Truck Driver – to name a few of the 31 occupations that are eligible.

Horticulture businesses that require skilled people to undertake technical and highly-skilled jobs who are unable to seek the workforce locally in Australia will benefit from HILA.

Three visa categories are accessible, two with permanent residency pathways:

Visa Type Skill Level Age Permanent Residency Pathway Time Frame
Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Skilled and semi-skilled No age requirement No (but can apply for other visas i.e ENS after 3 years) 2 years or up to 4 years if an International Trade Obligation (ITO) applies
Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (SESR) Skilled and semi-skilled Up to and including 50 years at time of applying Yes – pathway to Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa (subclass 191) Provisional visa that permits a stay of 5 years but permanent residency can be sought after 3 years
Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) Skilled and semi-skilled Up to and including 50 years at time of applying Yes Skilled workers, who are nominated by an employer, live and work in Australia permanently.

The number of places available under HILA is uncapped and therefore offers businesses flexibility to recruit skilled employees in the areas they most require.

The business’s approved labour agreement will tell the business the number of skilled overseas workers they can nominate in each year and also which visas you may use to sponsor skilled overseas workers and the occupations.


How to access the HILA scheme

Applications for the HILA are on the Home Affairs website. As the employer, you need to complete a nomination application for a skilled overseas worker through an ‘ImmiAccount’. Once lodged, you provide the nomination Transaction Reference Number (TRN) to the skilled overseas worker who can then lodge their individual visa application. They require the Transaction Reference Number to link their visa application to your nomination application.

Businesses are able to lodge their own HILA however if a business does require assistance they can utilise the services of a migration agency. The Home Affairs website has a list of all certified migration agents.

VETASSESS is the independent assessment body for applications. AUSVEG work closely with VETASSESS and provides insights and background in to the vegetable industry and skilled labour shortages. AUSVEG will also provide a letter of support to assist horticultural businesses in their applications.

Head to the Department of Home Affairs website to understand more about HILA and how it may benefit your business. –


More Information

AUSVEG will be holding a webinar for interested businesses in early autumn 2023. The webinar will include representatives from Home Affairs and VETASSESS, as well as industry representatives that have successfully utilised HILA in their operations. Further information on the date and time will be distributed in early 2023.