New Zealand Work Visa Process Changes

May 7, 2021
Iain MacLeod

INZ is starting to drip feed the details of the new work visa processes upon which work began back in late 2019. I say drip feed because in the recent announcements and webinars they have held they said ‘We are still doing work on that’ or ‘We are waiting on the Minister to tell us what he thinks’ (good luck with that then).

I really don’t understand why they go public with half the detail.

What we do know is there will be more bureaucracy involved but to those that have ever filed a work visa, there is nothing here that seeks to deliberately cut down the number of work visas at least for those earning higher amounts than the median national income. So that is reassuring.

All employers seeking to employ migrants will have to become ‘accredited’ before they can support work visa applications. Initial accreditation will be valid for 12 months and it can be renewed for periods of 24 months (with what INZ described as a ‘light touch’ which in English means if you’ve got accreditation it won’t be too hard to keep it).

The process will comprise three steps.

1. Employer check – employers can start apply for this for ‘late September’. By 1 November any employer that needs to employ non-residents must have that accreditation. Employers will be required to demonstrate inter alia they are registered as a genuine business with Inland Revenue (the tax department), have a registered Business Number, have a track record of complying with immigration and employment law and the employer must complete some government run, online, ‘employment modules’ providing any new staff with information on their employment rights etc.

2. Job check – depending on where the job is located (Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin being defined as ‘cities’ means the process may be a little different to those applying for jobs everywhere else) and what the salary is will determine what sort of local labour market test, if any, is required. Advertising evidence may or may not be required again depending on location and salary.

3. Migrant check – essentially proving the migrant is ‘suitably qualified’ to take up the role (we are assuming the same test applies to that which applies today), that there is no ‘suitable New Zealanders available for the role or who could be trained’ (again, status quo) and of course health and character checks will be carried out. So no real change coming there.

Franchises and what INZ refers to as ‘triangle’ employers e.g. those that employ and then sub contract out such as labour hire companies, will have shorter periods of accreditation and more onerous conditions placed on them.

Those on existing work visas do not have to apply for new visas nor does their employer need to become accredited before 1 November.

Those earning twice the median salary will still have available to them a work to residence pathway i.e. work for an accredited employer for two years and you can qualify for residence in that way. A new higher salary threshold will apply – twice the median salary which today is a total salary of $106,080. Today to achieve the same ‘residence from work outcome’ applicants must be earning $79,560. My thoughts on that is most people earning $106,080 will qualify under the ‘points’ system anyway so nothing much to worry about for those people.

The one big question mark for us was what about those on existing work to residence (WTR) visas if no residence visa has been filed before midnight on 31 October? INZ said they are waiting Ministerial direction on how they should be treating those people. That is of real concern to us. Is the Government going to pull the rug out from under the feet of the thousands of people in the country now on an existing work to residence pathway? In theory they could by simply reminding those holding WTR that what they hold is a temporary visa. Of course it is more than that to those that hold them – it is the only pathway many of them had to a resident visa so while technically it is a temporary visa, in effect it is so much more than that. I’d like to think the Government will confirm that the pathway to those people will be preserved.

All in all there is little to be too concerned about with this greater focus going onto employers but as always the devil is going to be in the detail.

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