Samoans ‘still considering its participation’ in Pacific Engagement Visa program

Samoans are not yet eligible to apply for Australia’s new visa category that allows skilled workers and their families to apply for permanent residence.

The inaugural Pacific Engagement Visa ballot opens on 3 June.

Up to 3000 visas inclusive of partners and dependent children for selected Pacific nationals and Timor-Leste will be granted by the Australian government.

Samoa, along with Kiribati, missing from the list of 10 countries which will have their citizens eligible for the program when the Australian government announced the ballot registration opening date this week.

Australia’s High Commissioner to Samoa, William Robinson, told the Samoa Observer countries are invited to participate based on their priorities, and “Samoa is still considering its participation”.

According to the Australian government, the Pacific Engagement Visa is a new permanent resident visa for participating countries across the Pacific and Timor-Leste which will deepen connections between Australia and the region.

Robinson said there will be no impact on existing or future visas for Samoan workers participating in the PALM scheme.

The Australian government has also committed to allowing long-term PALM scheme workers to bring their families to Australia, commencing with a pilot of 200 families in 2024 and this particular visa initiative is yet to be announced.

“Australia understands and respects Samoa’s position and continues to discuss this topic with the government,” Robinson said.

“The use of a ballot system will provide equal access for applicants regardless of skill level,” he said.

In 2019-2020 the Samoan government recorded an excess of $200 million in revenue generated from seasonal workers’ engagement in New Zealand and Australia.

While the labour mobility benefited local families with evidence of remittances from the temporary workers going up annually it has also posed concerns on local industry seeing a shortage of workers.

This has been an issue raised by the government and is now a possible reason for the exclusion of Samoa from the Australian visa ballot.

In August last year, Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa again raised deep concerns about the exodus of workers to Australia and New Zealand, arguing that countries like Samoa should not be seen merely as “outposts” which “grow” labourers for developed nations.

It was not possible to obtain a comment from the Minister of Finance Lautimuia Uelese Vaai who is responsible for seasonal workers, on the latest announcement that excluded Samoa.

He is currently overseas.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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