New Zealand’s overhaul of its employer accredited work visa program has been postponed until 2022.
The Minister of Immigration recently announced the abandonment of the new Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) framework and associated mandatory accreditation standards that were due to come into effect on 1 November 2021.
While this may come as a relief to many employers who will now be afforded some breathing room from the requirements to obtain accreditation in order to support migrant employees, it also spells a new set of challenges for active users of the employer accreditation program.
Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) changes
The new AEWV application process will be similar to the 3-step Australian work visa system, which is led by the employer. It will require an employer to:
- Apply for accreditation under the new system
- Apply for a job check to make sure the role they want to fill cannot be done by New Zealanders, and
- Request a migrant worker to apply for a visa. The migrant will need to meet the skills and experience stipulated as part of the job check.
The AEWV replaces these work visas:
- Essential Skills Work Visa (remains open until AEWV introduced)
- Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa (closing October 31, 2021)
- Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa (closing October 31, 2021)
- Silver Fern Job Search Visa (closed October 7, 2019)
- Silver Fern Practical Experience Visa (closing October 31, 2021).
What does this mean for you as a New Zealand employer?
Employers who applied for accreditation before applications closed on June 30, 2021, or who hold accreditation that remains valid for some time, can continue to utilise the Work to Residence (Talent) visa pathway until October 31, 2021.
For employers whose accreditation is expiring and who are waiting to apply for the new framework, it means they will not be able to apply for accreditation until 2022. Employers that didn’t renew their accreditation by June 30, 2021 will need to utilise the Essential Skills Visa for new hires until the new framework comes into effect.
It is expected the new framework will come into effect in mid-2022.
Loosening up of Essential Skills requirements
Individuals on Essential Skills visas who apply for a subsequent Essential Skills work visa where there is no change to their employer, role or location of employment will be eligible for the grant of a minimum 24-month visa regardless of their remuneration level, and will not be subject to Labour Market testing requirements.
Those applicants who do earn at or above median wage ($27 from July 19, 2021) will remain eligible for a 36-month visa.
Individuals who meet certain requirements will also not be required to produce a police or medical certificate, or a copy of their employment agreement to Immigration New Zealand in support of their Essential Skills work visa application, assuming they have submitted these documents to Immigration New Zealand at some time in the past and there have been no changes to their terms of employment, standard of health or character since that date.
Note that those people who are applying for a first-time Essential Skills work visa will most likely need to provide an employment contract and potentially a medical and police certificate given they are unlikely to have provided these earlier to Immigration New Zealand.
However, those already on an Essential Skills work visa, who have not changed their employment, will benefit from this announcement.
It is important to note; however, the same leniency is not currently afforded to an applicant’s dependent partner or children who will need to continue to meet the medical and police certificate requirements of existing policy.
New Zealand border restrictions and travel exemption
Border restrictions remain in place and are likely to continue for some time and to at least February 2022.
However, travel to New Zealand while the borders are closed may be possible if you have a critical purpose for travel.
Currently, travel exemptions to enter New Zealand are available for:
- Australian citizens and permanent residents
- Australians not ordinarily resident in New Zealand
- Partners and dependent children of temporary visa holders who are teachers
- Nationally significant travel re-entry permissions (for temporary visa holders currently in New Zealand or a quarantine-free travel zone)
- Partners and dependent children of temporary visa holders
- Partners and family
- Normally resident work visa holders
- Critical health workers
- Other critical workers
- Travel to and from Pacific Islands
- Humanitarian reasons
- Entry for students
- Ship crew
For employers, the most common exemption category used for staff mobility is the “other critical worker” category. An employee may be considered an
“other critical worker” if they:
- They have unique experience and technical or specialist skills not readily obtainable in New Zealand, or
- They are undertaking a time-critical role for:
- an approved major infrastructure project, or a government-approved event or a major government-approved program
- an approved government-to-government agreement
- work with significant wider benefit to the national or regional economy.
A role would be considered “time critical” if the employer can show significant costs would be incurred or the project, work or event would be severely compromised if the person does not come to New Zealand.
If the worker is needed in New Zealand for a term of longer than 6 months, then the employer would also need to pay a salary of at least NZ $106,080.
More information on these categories and travel exemptions can be found here.
The Government continues to review border settings according to the needs of the New Zealand economy. For example, in July 2021 Early Childhood and primary/secondary teachers and their families became eligible to apply for a border exception to enter New Zealand. This is the latest of ongoing changes to border settings and we are likely to see a slow broadening of the exception categories as time and New Zealand’s vaccine program progresses.
If your employee or their family are offshore and wish to travel to New Zealand, we recommend regularly reviewing the border settings to keep up to date with any changes.
Do you need a New Zealand travel exemption and visa for your business?
The best chance to have travel exemptions and visas approved in the current climate means having a immigration specialist, such as TMA, on your team.
We can help with your travel exemptions and visa requirements, and also offer second opinions to businesses and individuals who have not been able to secure a travel exemption, or those who have been advised that their situation would not qualify for an exemption. Simply get in touch here.
NZ Immigration Adviser 201801009