NZ News: Immigration and Visa Changes

NZ visa changes

Jacinda Ardern’s NZ Government recently announced significant changes to immigration and the employer-assisted work visa laws. Hoping to demonstrate their ongoing focus on immigration, the laws seek to ensure inbound migration is in a position to support the economy and the labour market.

Many of these changes will make it more complicated and arduous for employers to recruit skilled migrants, especially if they’re not across the changes.

The changes propose to create a simplified, employer-led work visa system. The six work visa categories currently in place are:

  1. essential skills
  2. approval in principle
  3. talent (accredited employer)
  4. work to residence
  5. long term skill shortage list
  6. Silver Fern visas.

The new framework will replace these multiple application types, rules, and processes with a single pathway.

The government estimates that up to 30,000 employers in NZ will benefit from the changes. The expectation is also on employers to employ and train more New Zealanders and to reduce the exploitation of foreign workers.

Here, we’ve provided a summary of these NZ visa and immigration changes:

  • The introduction of a new employer-led visa framework that will better drive the application process and the transition to residency
  • Replacing existing skills bands with a simple remuneration threshold aligned to the median wage
  • This gateway framework, will offer one visa pathway, replacing the existing six different temporary work visa pathways
  • Under the gateway framework, there are a series of checks proposed. These include: …the ‘Employer Check’:
    • mandatory accreditation for all employers seeking to support work visa applications
    • different categories of accreditation are proposed, including standard accreditation, labour hire accreditation and premium accreditation
  • …the ‘Job Check’: as the labour market check, this proposes to introduce:
    • skill shortage lists for regional areas, to replace the current ‘Essential Skills in Demand’ lists (largely seen as an acknowledgement that labour market conditions vary by region)
    • negotiating agreements for specific industries eg hospitality ensuring there is more planning for future workforce needs
    • zero labour market tests for salaries of $101,046+
    • Employers currently known as ‘Accredited Employers’, who make all job offers to immigrants that seek to transition to residence status through a Work to Residence (Talent visas), a salary of $79,560 or greater must be offered for a 40 hour week – an increase from $55,000 per annum.
  • …the ‘Individual Check’:
    • the final stage before a work visa can be issued
    • assesses the identity, character and health of the work visa applicant
    • looks at whether the potential employee is suitably skilled through relevant qualifications and/or work experience
  • An increase in the ‘mid-skilled’ remuneration levels, whereby the minimum hourly rate for mid-skilled workers is set to be increased from $21.25 to $24.29. This will result in many workers having to be reclassified as ‘low skilled’
  • A strengthening of the labour market test for lower-paid jobs and the removal of it entirely for highly-paid jobs in rural regions
  • Reinstating the opportunity for lower-paid immigrant workers to bring their families to live in New Zealand
  • For higher paid jobs, replacing the current set of skills shortage lists for cities and open access for regions
  • For many migrants to New Zealand, gaining employment with an Accredited Employer is vital as it may be their only chance of ultimately gaining residency. The alternative option is normally the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC). However, there might be many reasons why a migrant cannot meet the criteria for this category, for example, a lack of English-speaking ability

The NZ visa and immigration changes are due to come into effect in 2020.

These are simply the main points of the changes. Next week, we’ll provide the perspectives of various NZ locals on the impacts of these changes at the front line of recruitment and immigration.

For more information or a discussion on these changes, please contact Paul Brophy in our Auckland office, here.