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Up to 12 migration deals expected: Gray
Up to 12 migration deals expected: Gray

Up to a dozen enterprise migration agreements are expected to be inked by the Federal Government, Special Minister of State Gary Gray says.

Mr Gray said the Commonwealth anticipated it would enter into six to 12 EMAs, which aimed to address skilled labour shortages during peak demand periods like project construction.

"We can't see any more than that," he told ABC radio today.

So far, the only project that is covered by an EMA is Hancock Prospecting's Roy Hill iron ore development in the Pilbara, where 1700 overseas workers will be hired.

The Gina Rinehart-led company had not yet imported a single worker and rightly needed certainty it would be able to meet its initial labour needs in order to secure finance, Mr Gray said.

"We do have to accept that we've got to get our projects built on time and on budget, and that requires labour force certainty."

He also said BHP Billiton's deferral this week of two major projects would have an impact on the domestic labour market.

Mr Gray also expected temporary 457 visa applications would start to wane.

"At different points in the cycle, yes I do expect that to change.

"We do need to supplement our skilled workforce with a skilled migration program that's absolutely, totally sensitive to market conditions."

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said an application by British recruitment firm Cape to import 2062 foreign workers was incomplete.

The company has been reported as seeking an EMA, but it has in fact applied for a Labour Agreement, which has different rules and is designed to address more immediate labour needs.

The spokesman said Labour Agreements required a high degree of proof on the immediacy of genuine skills shortages, including evidence of ongoing and genuine efforts to recruit local workers.

"The department has not even started considering this submission," he told AAP.