Work Visa Nightmares

July 22, 2022
Iain MacLeod

‘New Zealand has taken another significant step forward in our Reconnecting plan today, as work visa applications open for people offshore, Immigration Minister Michael Wood says. The third and final stage of the new simplified Accredited Employer Work …’

So said the Minister on 4 July describing the new three step process to secure a work visa. 

Before the border closed in March 2020 it took us around 2-4 weeks to secure a work visa for most of our clients.

So how exactly is this new ‘simplified’ process measuring up against that historic timeline? 

What springs to my mind is two words – the first is ‘cluster’ and the second cannot be printed in a family friendly blog. 

By way of reminder employing any non-resident or citizen now requires an employer to:

1.        Become ‘accredited’; then

2.        Satisfy INZ officialdom through a ‘job check’ they have advertised the vacancy, made a genuine attempt to fill it locally and has employment agreements that comply with all employment and immigration legislation; then 

The person they wish to employ can apply for their work visa. 

Three steps. Sequentially followed.

Government advised timelines for each of the three step should be ten working days – a total of around six calendar weeks.

The first few accreditation applications we filed took between two hours and two weeks to be approved. So far so good.

A promising start even though it appeared that INZ was simply rubber stamping the applications – no background checks or verification was going on (somewhat calling into question the point of the exercise). Our experience squares with industry colleagues who also found the accreditation pretty quick and easy. Most employers could do it themselves. 

Then around three weeks ago we could start filing the second stage ‘job checks’. And the nightmare began for employers and advisers alike.

Few job checks are complete three weeks into the process. The significant majority of employers are having two issues raised as ‘concerns’ by immigration officers: 

1.        The advertisement they ran as part of the recruitment campaign did not list the salary and/or the advert was not specific enough in terms of tasks.

2.        The proposed employment agreement did not satisfy the case officer it complies with employment law. 

Here are a few examples I have been advised of from colleagues in the industry. 

An advert for an Excavator Operator (digger driver) did not list a drivers license as a pre-requisite for the role. INZ demanded it be re-advertised including the drivers license. That would be like advertising for taxi drivers and thinking it necessary to state a driver license is necessary. A point missed it seems by INZ. 

A hairdresser advert described the role as ‘cutting and colouring hair’. Not prescriptive enough, has to be re-advertised. To what? ‘Must be able to pick up scissors. Clasp hair in left hand, use scissors with right hand. Mix colours in tinfoil tray. Apply to hair. Leave on for 20 minutes. Offer magazine and coffee. Rinse’ 

Here at IMMagine we had one case where under hours of work the employment contract stated ’40 hours per week.’ INZ wanted the words ‘full time’ inserted in the contract. That is despite INZ’s own definition of full-time employment being ’at least 30 hours a week’. 

A major construction company complained to us only yesterday that INZ told them for a Construction Project Manager position the employment agreement needed to satisfy two criteria:

1.        The qualifications had to be as per one of the ‘Green List’ occupations because they ‘ticked that box’ on the form; AND

2.        The salary had to be twice the national median.

So wrong in so many ways. The Talent Manager of this national construction company that needs to be able to bring in these skills to deliver on the infrastructure projects the NZ Government is funding pointed out to the processing officer the rule book didn’t have ‘And’ in there. One or the other criteria had to be satisfied.

It isn’t hard to understand what is going on here.

Lots of new and inexperienced immigration officers sitting with a checklist in front of them. 

It will use specific language such as ‘Check the employment agreement states the role is ‘full time’. Check it is permanent’ 

If their own rule book defines full-time as at least 30 hours per week and the employment agreement states 40 hours per week Monday to Friday 830am to 5pm’, it is hard for a normal person to comprehend the request for the word ‘full time’ to be inserted in an agreement and the wasting of more time. Yet this will happen because this is the calibre of officer employed to make a decision on these applications.

This madness either means INZ has yet again employed a bunch of people incapable of independent and critical thought or officers have been told that unless they have reason to request more information the expectation is they must complete the job check process within ten days. So, as bureaucrats the world over do, they wait for nine days then ask for more information, whether it is needed to not.

The next thing that will happen is the Minister will be asked at Select Committee or by way of a written Parliamentary question what happened to the ten-day processing promise under the simplified work visa process for a job check? 

His reply is so predictable I’ll write it for him. He will say ‘Sadly, we are finding the majority of applications received are not decision ready and require officers to request additional information from employers’. 

So far then the accreditation process is going smoothly and well. 

The job check is a nightmare for most. And slow. 

And we haven’t even got to the work visa stage yet!

‘Simplified’ process to help us ‘reconnect’ with the world?

I don’t think so.

Until next week 

Iain MacLeod

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