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We are six weeks away from elections, have a relatively new Minister of Immigration, and all things immigration are buzzing. Almost all awaited policies have now been announced – most are in action or will come into effect shortly. Partner work rights changed in May, the brand-new Skilled Migrant Category starts in October, and changes to the Accredited Employer Work Visa takes place in November, to name a few.

The things New Zealand businesses need to be aware of when it comes to immigration is constantly changing.

  • How to hire overseas talent?
  • How to retain them?
  • Do they have a pathway to residence?
  • What happens if they do not apply for residence within the five years of their work visa?
  • Is hiring international talent sustainable or is it a stopgap?

The list goes on. If you find yourself deliberating over these questions often, then there are two things you should do – read this handy guide and book your seat to attend our panel event, Immigration today – A sustainable solution for NZ’s future?, on 13 September 2023 presented in association with Auckland Chamber of Commerce. You can attend this online or in person.

We recently conducted an immigration survey in association with Auckland Business Chamber. The findings from this survey will be presented at this event on 13 September. Book your tickets to join us for a discussion on the impact immigration policies are having on Auckland businesses.

Latest statistics – Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) scheme

As of 26 July 2023, 27,480 businesses have been accredited by INZ; 42,221 job checks have been approved, resulting in 75,765 AEWVs.

This indicates that the system is clearly working, and record numbers of workers are coming in (as detailed below) but is it attracting the right skills to NZ? Only time will tell.

In the aftermath of COVID-19, the market and wider economy has been in recovery mode. This year has seen an annual net migration gain of 86,772 individuals. Most of them are in the country on different types of work visas. Most sectors facing labour shortages have relied on arriving international workforce to address the shortfall. So, if you as a business are still contemplating whether bringing international labour into NZ is feasible, let the statistics give you an idea.

Post-accreditation checks

Immigration NZ (INZ) is now focussing on scrutinising employers that are accredited. They aim to check 15% of total accredited employers in a 12-month period.

If you are an accredited employer, you made a set of commitments to INZ through declarations in the accreditation application form. It is imperative that you adhere to these obligations, as failure to do so can result in stringent consequences. INZ conducts random post-accreditation checks on businesses to ensure that guidelines are being followed and have confirmed that they will take an educative approach in the beginning to assist businesses in understanding the importance of meeting their compliance obligations. However, businesses that don’t toe line repeatedly will not get away with it lightly.  Defaulters are being reined in for non-compliance through measures like stand-downs and even permanent bans. You can go through a detailed list of INZ’s penalties for non-compliance here.

If you would like to know about what businesses need to look out for after getting accredited, and where the pitfalls may be, here is a handy piece to read.

Upcoming Changes to the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV)

Starting from 27 November 2023, the government will roll out a new regulation related to the AEWV which will introduce a maximum continuous stay of five years for individuals who are not clearly on a pathway to residence. Those who fail to meet the education, qualification, occupation, or wage thresholds required for skilled residence pathways will be required to depart New Zealand for a period of 12 months before being eligible to apply for another AEWV.

The maximum duration of an AEWV will be extended from three years to five years. Care workforce AEWV will be extended from two to three years. Maximum continuous stays are also being introduced for other sectors which are exempt from paying the median wage. Learn more about this here.

It’s important to note that time spent on other temporary visas, such as a Post Study Work Visa or Working Holiday Visa, will not be counted towards the five-year maximum continuous stay for AEWV holders.

To align with this upcoming change, those already on AEWVs will be able to apply for a further visa to get up to five years in total (including time already spent on an AEWV). Employers will not need to apply for a further Job Check for the role and you can reuse the existing job token, if:

  • your employee has an AEWV on 26 November 2023
  • you offer them the same role, in the same location, and
  • you pay them at least the amount listed in their current AEWV conditions

Read more about these changes here.

Changes to Partner Work Rights

INZ has made several changes to the work rights for partners of AEWV and those that hold the phased out Essential Skills Work Visas (ESWV).

Hereon, only partners of certain migrant workers will get open work visas. Specifically, partners of:

  • migrants working in roles that pay at or above twice the median wage
  • migrants working in roles that are on the Green List

Partners of all other AEWV holders that are paid at or above the median wage will now get a work visa with conditions that require them to work for NZ Accredited Employers and the role will have to be paid at the median wage or above. These work visa holders will no longer be able to undertake self-employment while on the partnership-based work visa.

Partners of AEWV holders that are paid below the median wage will only get visitor visas.

Businesses that were previously hiring from this pool of open work visa candidates, can no longer do so without checking the ‘conditions’ of a candidate’s work visa first.

Here is a list of frequently asked questions on this topic.

New 6-point Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) – starting October 2023

A new simplified points system will be introduced for the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) Resident Visa on 9 October 2023.  The SMC at 180 points was closed on 15 August 2023.

In this new SMC, an applicant can claim points from at least one section from the blue box above. If the applicant can get all 6 points from the blue box, they don’t need anything from the red box. However, if they are short of a few points, the remaining points can come from the red box. Irrespective of where they claim points from, they must have a ‘skilled’ job offer from an Accredited employer.

If you’d like to find out more about this category and how your employees may be eligible, please read more here.

You can have your employees book a consultation with one of our immigration advisers by clicking here.


Attend Our Upcoming Panel Event

Join us for an insightful panel discussion in Auckland with business and industry leaders to explore the sustainability of immigration policies. These policies directly affect thousands of Kiwi businesses and migrant workers, making it crucial for you to stay informed. As an employer, HR manager, or recruiter, this one-of-a-kind panel event is a must-attend. The proceedings will also be livestreamed.

Click here to book your tickets or for more extensive information about the event.

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