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The Minister of Immigration has announced changes to employer assisted work visas. The changes will be implemented over the next 18 months, with the first changes to be implemented on 7 October 2019.

The key changes include:

  • Replacing six current employer-assisted temporary work visas with just one employer assisted Temporary Work Visa;
  • Introducing a new framework which will be employer-led and will involve three stages: the employer check, the job check, and the worker check; 
  • Using the level of pay based on the median wage to categorise a job, replacing the existing skill bands which are based on the pay rate and the ANZSCO job categorisation;
  • Strengthening the labour market test for low paid jobs, and opening access for high paid jobs in regions;
  • Introducing sector agreements for industries that regularly employ migrant workers; and
  • Reintroducing the ability for lower paid workers to bring their families to New Zealand.

Changes being implemented on 7 October 2019

The changes to be implemented in October will only affect the Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa:

  • The minimum annual salary will be increased from $55,000 to $79,560 and will be applied from 7 October, regardless of when the employer became accredited. The salary threshold will be updated each year in line with New Zealand’s median income. Those with incomes under $79,560 will be able to apply for an Essential Skills Work Visa.
  • The period of time for which Employers will be able to be accredited will be limited to 24 months.
  • The ability to get a Permanent Resident Visa will be removed. Applicants will still be able to apply for a Talent (Accredited Employer) Resident Visa, and will be eligible to apply for permanent residence if/when they meet the requirements for permanent residence.
  • Permanently closing the Silver Fern Job Search Visa.

Any Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa application that is received by Immigration New Zealand on or after 7 October will need to meet the new salary threshold. People currently holding Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visas and people who apply before 7 October will still be able to apply for residence based on the salary threshold of $55,000.

Changes to expect in mid-2020

From mid-2020 low-paid migrant workers will be able to support family visa applications. Their partners and children younger than school age can apply for Visitor Visas for the duration of the work visa. School-age children can apply for student visas for the duration of the Work Visa.

Immigration New Zealand will introduce sector agreements for industries that rely on temporary migrant workers that are paid below the median wage, which is currently $25 an hour.

Immigration New Zealand has identified six sectors that it will negotiate with initially and will start negotiating with the residential care and meat processing sectors from October 2019. It is expected that these sector agreements will be negotiated by mid-2020.

Further changes to be implemented by 2021

The details of the new framework for Temporary Work Visas are yet to be worked out. At this stage we expect that the new framework will include the following employer, job, and worker checks:

  1. The Employer Check – Employers will need to be accredited under the new system before they can hire workers on a Temporary Work Visa. The three levels of accreditation will be standard approval, high volume (for employers who want to hire six or more migrant workers in a year); and labour hire employer accreditation.
  2. The Job Check – Labour market tests to ensure that New Zealander workers are not available will only be required in some circumstances. For example, employers will not need to undertake a labour market test if they offer high paid work in rural areas and smaller towns. Labour market tests will continue for all low paid jobs and will require the employer to engage with the Ministry of Social Development.
  3. The Worker Check – Workers must meet Immigration New Zealand’s identity, character, and health requirements, and must have the skills required for the job.

If you would like to know more about upcoming changes to work visas, please contact one of our experts.



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