After much anticipation, New Zealand’s government has released more information about its temporary visa framework.
New Zealand’s new system is moving more towards the Australian employer-sponsored work visa system adopted in the mid-90s, with the sponsorship status of an employer followed by a nomination and visa application.
In New Zealand, employers and HR managers need to be aware of these changes and start to prepare for the new employer work visa – particularly because existing accreditation will not be acceptable under the new regime and you will need to reapply for accreditation under the new framework.
Full details about the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) and the mandatory accreditation standards will be available on November 1, 2021, but this is what we know so far.
Understanding the structure of the Accredited Employer Work Visa
The AEWV is a single visa that will replace six prior visa streams: the Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa, Essential Skills Work Visa, Essential Skills Work Visa – Approved in Principle, Long Term Skill Shortage List (LTSSL) Work Visa, Silver Fern Job Search Visa, and the Silver Fern Practical Experience Visa.
The new framework includes three criteria that employers and migrants must meet to qualify:
- Employer check: Employers must be accredited by the New Zealand government.
- Job check: Employment offers have to comply with employment laws and labour market tests must be conducted when relevant.
- Migrant worker check: Only once the employer has completed the employer accreditation and job check can the visa be applied for. Migrant workers have to meet health, character, and identity prerequisites, and they must meet the criteria set forth in the job description.
Employers will be able to apply for accreditation status in September before the program begins in November. This includes employers who are accredited under the current immigration system. Employers who hold existing accredited status will need to re-apply under the new system.
Employers who use other visa programs, for example, Open Work visas including Working Holiday Visas, Partnership work visas and Post-study work visas, or Specific Purpose or Event Work visas will not require accreditation.
How to become accredited
There will be two accreditation levels for employers: Standard Accreditation for those who want to have up to five workers on AEWV visas, and High-Volume Accreditation for those who will employ more than six workers.
To get accredited, New Zealand businesses will need to demonstrate that they:
- Are genuinely operating business, including being registered with Inland Revenue and holding a New Zealand Business Number (NZBN)
- Are in a sound financial position
- Do not have a recent history of non-compliance with immigration and employment laws, and
- Will take steps to minimise the risk of exploitation including:
- completing online employment modules
- allowing migrant workers time to complete online employment rights modules during paid work hours
- paying all recruitment costs inside and outside New Zealand
High volume employers will need to commit to improving pay and employment conditions over time of 10% above minimum wage unless covered by a collective agreement. Commitments on training and upskilling New Zealanders will also be required.
Once a business is accredited, it will maintain the status for 12-24 months depending on whether they’ve received standard or high-volume accreditation. However, franchisee and labour-hire employers will be on a 12-month renewal timeframe no matter how many migrants they employ.
Timelines for the AEWV visa
For employers who need to be aware of the AEWV visa changes, there are some key deadlines to keep in mind:
June 30, 2021: The NZ government will end the option to apply for Accreditation (Talent – Accredited Employer), Labour Hire Accreditation, and Approval in Principle (Essential Skills) visas.
End of September 2021: The government will open applications under the new accreditation system for employers.
October 31, 2021: NZ government will stop accepting applications for Talent (Accredited Employer) and Essential Skills Work Visas under the current framework.
November 1, 2021: The new framework will go live.
Residence opportunities for AEWV visa holders
In addition to simplifying visa options by consolidating diverse streams, the AEWV visa pathway can lead to residency. This path will be open to AEVE holders who are paid twice the median wage for at least two years by an accredited employer.
Other eligibility requirements and qualifications will apply to this residence pathway, but those details are expected later this year.
For current Talent Visa holders, it is proposed that the pathway to residence for Talent Visa holders will remain after 1 November 2021. This proposal is being considered by the Minister, and we should have further information about any grandfathering arrangements for existing Talent Visa holders closer to September 2021.
What the AEWV visa means for Businesses Operating in New Zealand
In summary, businesses with operations in New Zealand need to plan ahead so that they can obtain accreditation under the new framework and be ready to hire foreign nationals on work visas. The new application system won’t be live until September 2021, but until then, businesses can learn about the changes and begin thinking about applying under the AEWV framework.
Do you have business operations in New Zealand? This is How TMA can help
The AEWV framework is the largest overhaul to New Zealand’s employer visa programs yet. Our NZ immigration specialists can help you prepare for achieving accreditation so that you’re prepared once applications open. Our knowledgeable team will help ensure the process is smooth, quick, and efficient. We encourage you to get in touch for further advice on accreditation and work visa applications.