• 14th Apr 2021

Changes to Employer-Assisted Temporary Visa in New Zealand

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) announced a new visa application process with an employer-led framework. After mid-2021, employers will need to do the following before hiring a migrant on the new employer-assisted temporary work visa:

  • apply for accreditation
  • apply for a job check to make sure the role they want to fill cannot be done by New Zealanders
  • request a migrant worker to apply for a visa

Work Visas that will be replaced

These existing work visas will be replaced by the new employer-assisted visa scheme:

  • Essential Skills Work Visa
  • Essential Skills Work Visa — approved in principle
  • Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa
  • Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa
  • Silver Fern Job Search Visa (closed 7 October 2019)
  • Silver Fern Practical Experience Visa

New Visa Application Process

Before an employer can hire a migrant worker the new framework will check the three criteria below:

1. Employer check — employers need accreditation to pass this

The employer check will replace three current employer schemes:
  • Approval in principle (AIP) before an employer hires workers on an Essential Skills Work Visa
  • Accreditation as a Talent Accredited Employer
  • Labour Hire employers accreditation for Essential Skills work visas
It is mandatory for employers to meet accreditation standards to enable them to  hire a migrant worker on the employer-assisted work visa.
Accreditation Levels

There are two main accreditation levels:

  • standard accreditation — for employers who want to hire 5 or fewer migrant workers
  • high-volume accreditation — for employers who want to hire 6 or more migrant workers
Employers need to take note that this only includes employees you want to hire on employer-assisted work visas. For Franchisees and Labour Hire companies, they will need to meet additional criteria to get accredited. Employers will receive accreditation for 12 months when they are approved. At renewal, some employers will be granted accreditation for 24 months.
Standard Accreditation Criteria

To gain standard accreditation, employers are required to be a genuinely operating business and must not be on a non-compliant stand-down list — a list of employers who have broken employment law. Employers must also comply with all relevant industry and regulatory standards.

High-volume Accreditation Criteria
To gain high-volume accreditation, employers are required to meet the standard accreditation requirements and must commit to improving pay and employment conditions, as well as training and up-skilling New Zealanders.

Accreditation process notes
  • Information previously supplied by employers will be retained when applying for accreditation renewal. 
  • Employers will need a New Zealand Business Number (NZBN) so the system can link their business information with the new platform.
  • The system will guide employers to ensure they provide all the information needed for their application.
  • Employers will need to pay the fee for the employer check.
  • INZ will work with employers to transition to the new accreditation process. 
More details about the new accreditation criteria will be provided to employers in early 2021.

2. Job check

The job check will confirm the job pays the market rate, the terms and conditions comply with employment laws, and employers have done a labour market test if required. A labour market test shows employers have genuinely advertised the role to New Zealanders and there are no New Zealanders available to do the job in that region. Note that jobs paying 200% of the median wage and those on skills shortage lists do not need a labour market test.

Employers can only hire a migrant worker if the job check is passed. Employers will also need to pay for a job check.

Further policy work is being done on understanding the effects of COVID-19 on the wider labour market in New Zealand’s cities and regions. Requirements for a job check will consider the pay, skill level and location of the role. More information will be available in 2021.

3. Migrant worker check

The last check in the new system is where the migrant worker applies for a visa. Migrant workers would only be able to apply for a visa once the employer has passed the employer and job checks. 

The migrant worker check involves assessment on the identity, character and health of the work visa applicant. Applicants will also need to provide evidence that they have the qualifications and experience to do the job before being granted a visa. 

Note that migrant workers or employers will need to pay for this check.

Further information on fees will be announced in early 2021.

Temporary work visas not affected

The following temporary work visas will not be changed by the new visa system:
  • Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Limited Visa
  • Working holiday schemes
  • Post-study Work Visa
  • Fishing Crew Work Visa
  • Religious Worker Work Visa
  • Specific Purpose Work Visa
  • Partnership work visas including Partner of a Worker Work Visa, Partner of a New Zealander Work Visa and Partner of a Student Work Visa
  • Work visas granted for international or humanitarian reasons, such as domestic staff of diplomats, consular and official staff, and for refugee or protection status claimants

Introducing Sector Agreements

Some industries hire large numbers of migrant workers — sector agreements may be negotiated with them. Agreements will include a workforce plan and conditions that need to be met to recruit a temporary migrant worker for specific occupations in the sector.

Introduction of sector agreements has been delayed due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Remuneration Thresholds

The Talent (Accredited Employer) work visa salary threshold is now 150% of the median wage (NZD $79,560). In addition, the threshold for determining the conditions of an Essential Skills Visa is now the median wage.

Policies in place

  • Visa holders who are paid below the median wage are subject to a 12 month stand-down period where they must leave New Zealand if they have been working in New Zealand for three years. 
  • The new visa will still have conditions specifying an employer, job and location. To change any of these the visa holder will still have to get a variation of conditions or apply for a new visa.
  • Current work visas remain valid until their expiry date if all employment conditions are met.
  • Current labour market test requirements continue to apply for Essential Skills Visa applications.

The content of this article is for general purposes only. Contact us to know more about what these changes might mean for you.


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