SOUTHERN MAN IMMIGRATION BLOG

Winds Of Change

May 14, 2021
Paul Janssen

INZ recently released more detail in regard to the upcoming Work Visa changes (which we posted a newsflash about late last week) and like clockwork, social media was set ablaze with rumour, conjecture and panic.

To help demystify some of the online fog and settle a few nerves we have added some detail to that explanation and a few things for applicants and employers to consider as these winds of Visa change blow across the land.

First of all, and to give a few of you out there fewer sleepless nights – anyone who is on a Work to Residence (Accredited Employer) Visa now and has either lodged their Residence application or has yet to do so, will still be able to secure Residence. Although INZ were a little lost on this point during their recent webinar, the Minister has subsequently confirmed that the pathway for these folks remains in place.

This ties in with the fact that the current rules allow for anyone on a Work to Residence Visa to still apply for Residence even if their employer has not renewed or even lost their Accreditation status. This seems to be a point of significant debate out there in the online migrant world, but the simple and confirmed (by INZ) fact is that if you hold this Visa and during the two years you need to work in NZ, your employer doesn’t renew their Accreditation or it is rescinded, then your ability to apply for Residence remains intact. As long as your job continues to meet the same conditions that applied when your Work to Residence Visa was initially issued.

That rule then would apply when the current Accredited employer scheme ends in June and the existing Work to Residence policies are wound up in November.

In addition, there has been discussion on many a social media thread that refers to having to secure a Variation of Conditions to your Visa if your employer’s Accreditation ends mid-Visa – again also a bit of a myth, perpetuated by some poor template letter writing on the part of INZ.

Lastly, anyone who holds one of the six Visas that are being mothballed in November, which includes two of the Work to Residence streams (Accredited Employer and LTSSL), two Silver Fern streams and two Essential Skills streams – your Visas remain valid and don’t suddenly expire. Also anyone that holds a Visa that doesn’t fall within the six earmarked for extermination, nothing changes (these are predominantly Visas that don’t require a form of employer support).

Panic over (for some of you at least).

However, if we step back a little and look at what INZ is undertaking and the timelines being proposed for it to be rolled out, it is either very ambitious or somewhat unrealistic. I suspect the latter.

In summary, the changes will be phased in over three separate timelines:

· June 2021 – Employer based schemes for Accreditation, Labour Hire and Approval in Principles will end. These are the employer based applications, not the Visa applications.

· Late September 2021 – Employers will be able to start applying under the new Accredited Employer Work Visa scheme.

· November 2021 – From the beginning of the month, six Work Visa categories will be retired and be replaced with the one Accredited Employer Work Visa policy.

In a perfect world, INZ’s plan might make a lot of sense. The world however is far from perfect. What I suspect the good folks within INZ policy have dreamed up is a picture where all employers who have ever or might ever hire a migrant worker, line up in September and apply for the new Accreditation scheme, having studied the literature and with the correct documents in hand.

Unlikely.

There will be plenty of larger employers with HR teams, pouncing all over this and who will be ready to go when the gates are lifted, however for many employers this will be something they will get to later. Often employers don’t realise they need to hire a migrant until they need to hire a migrant (realising that the labour market isn’t going to deliver a local). For them, the process to secure that migrant is now going to appear (not necessarily be) more logistically complicated.

Add to this the fact that INZ are about to roll out an entirely new set of rules, where officers will be grappling with commercial concepts in assessing businesses, not just the usual paperwork associated with a Visa applicant – expect delays.

It also creates an unusual situation for the last-minute Visa crowd – those who tend to leave their Visa applications until just before their current Visas expire. If you suddenly discover you have two weeks left on your Work Visa and need to reapply but your employer isn’t Accredited, that process has just become a lot more challenging.

As sure as the temperature has dropped a few degrees of late, you can be certain that this period of change will bring some complications.

So naturally we have some advice to offer and we would encourage anyone reading this to share it with their migrant colleagues, friends and their own managers.

Firstly, for any employer who currently has migrant staff on board, or expects to be making some migrant focussed recruitment decisions in the next 12 months (and with low unemployment that is likely), we would suggest you line up in September and apply. Whilst there will be a cost (yet to be confirmed by INZ) and some admin involved, the downstream savings in time, money and stress will be substantial. Once you are Accredited, this will initially last for 12 months and then on renewal becomes valid for two years. The renewal process is likely to be a lot simpler than the upfront Accreditation and even that doesn’t look onerous.

This means that rather than scrambling to complete the Accreditation step first, when you find that ideal applicant, you will be sorted and ready to go.

For any migrants out there on temporary Visas that may be expiring within the next 12 months, speak to your manager or HR, ask them if they are aware of these changes and if they aren’t, recommend they find out. Forewarned is forearmed and no employer wants to be saddled with this process at the eleventh hour before a Visa is due to expire.

Overall we see these changes as positive because anything that removes one step in the already convoluted assessment process for a Work Visa should be welcomed by the industry, employers and applicants alike.

However, if history is anything to go by, change is not something that Governments do well, despite their extraordinary ability to talk a lot about it. These changes were initially tabled in 2019 and whilst we have had Covid in the mix, the fact that the actual rules haven’t yet been finalised or released speaks volumes as to how well this transition is likely to be managed.

So getting in front of this process as quickly as you can will remove a significant amount of stress and provide a measure of that all important factor for all migrants and employers – certainty.

We are certainly going to be raising this with the employer we have engaged with and also with our clients and of course navigating this process for employers is going to be a somewhat foreign concept because up until now, supporting a migrant has been a pretty simple process (in terms of paperwork).

If you want to know more about how this might all work, be informed as to what the rules will look like in detail (when INZ have finalised them) then get in touch and we can make sure that the winds of change are little more than a breeze, rather than a raging cyclone.

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