Earlier last month, the Government announced that the New Zealand border (including the maritime border) will fully reopen to travelers from 11.59pm 31 July 2022. This also means that anyone interested in visiting or returning to New Zealand can begin submitting New Zealand visa applications from this date. Business owners struggling for staff, separated families, cruise ship operators, students and other migrants amongst many others are ecstatic at the news which cuts short the October 2022 reopening date that was originally planned.
This is a significant step forward in a post Covid New Zealand and will go to great lengths to aid our economic recovery. In addition to the earlier reopening, the Government also announced changes to current and proposed immigration settings, primarily for work visas, which are designed to make it easier to attract and hire skilled migrants while providing more flexibility to businesses reliant on lower skilled migrant workers.
Many of our clients continue to be affected by staff shortages blamed on reasons such as, long-term employees leaving the country after obtaining residence under the 2021 Resident Visa category, not being able to pay the increased median wage required for some work visas resulting in staff jumping ship, not being able to hire offshore workers as replacements, isolation requirements forcing temporary closures, and simply struggling to keep afloat in a difficult business landscape where staffing can be the biggest expense. These most recent changes hope to alleviate some of those concerns and promote both staff retention and staff attraction.
You wouldn’t be blamed for missing a key immigration policy change in recent times if you blinked, there have been so many! What this demonstrates is that Immigration New Zealand has been working hard in the background in response to concerns raised by key industry stakeholders and creating policy patches to fix holes left by Covid 19.
The pace at which Immigration settings are changing clearly shows that there is a risk of getting things wrong if you don’t have your ‘finger on the pulse’ and are regularly tracking immigration updates and changes. It is also a key reminder to employers and in particular, HR staff that the Immigration Advisors Licensing Act 2007 prohibits unlicensed or unexempt persons from providing immigration advice. In addition to any fines or censors that might follow, the potential for getting a visa declined is high in an ever-changing immigration landscape and can adversely affect a migrant’s life.
On 23 May 2022, the new Accredited Employer work visa accreditation process also opened. We have already completed and submitted accreditation applications for some of our clients and note that while many of the questions asked in the accreditation form are based simply on declarations, undertakings, and representations that the employer is required to make, there are some fishhooks, and we caution that the process must not be taken lightly.
If attempting the application yourself, think carefully about your responses and whether they meet both immigration and your business requirements. Will your response be the same in 6 months’ time when things become busy, and you are recruiting under urgency? Are your responses a true and accurate reflection of your business practices and will they stand up to scrutiny in the event of an immigration compliance audit? Is there exposure?
In a recent webinar, INZ reminded us that there is no need to become accredited immediately if you don’t require a new migrant worker at this point in time. We think this is a sensible suggestion as the next few months will help draw out any kinks in this new process and establish some precedence in INZ decision-making on accreditation applications. In our experience, it takes at least 6 to 12 months following the release of a new visa category or policy for things to ‘stabilize’ and the Accredited Employer Work Visa process is no different.
We outlined the details of the new policy in an earlier article which can be found here. Since then, INZ have made some further changes to the ‘Job Check’ stage of the process and in our view, the following are certainly worth noting:
To meet the requirements of an Accredited Employer Work visa, the job on offer must:
1. Be for at least 30 hours a week (which is INZ’s definition of full-time employment and has not changed from current policy).
2. Comply with NZ’s immigration and employment.
3. Pay at the market rate and more than the NZ median wage on 4 July 2022 of $27.76 an hour unless it is exempt.
Exemptions apply to specified roles in construction and infrastructure, and tourism and hospitality must pay at least NZD $25 an hour.
Exemptions also apply to specified roles in the care workforce sector which must be paid at least NZD $25.39 an hour.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. In our view, the entire paradigm of the work visa process has shifted, and we encourage both employers and visa applicants to spend time learning about the process and its requirements (or seek professional immigration advice), to save on headaches and stress down the road.
INZ have also introduced a ‘Green List” which will replace the skill shortage lists currently in place. If a role is on the Green List and an applicant meets the requirements (usually registration and/or qualification and/or experience) of the list, then an employer will not need to provide proof of advertising when progressing an Accredited Employer work visa job check application.
The Green List also makes provision for two distinct residence pathways (for applicants under 56 years of age and who obtain employment in a Green List occupation). The first is a fast-tracked residence pathway for some specified Green List occupations and another 2-year work tor residence pathway for several other occupations. The List can be found on the INZ website however if you or your employee requires an eligibility assessment or has a query, please connect with us.
In addition to the above, INZ have also, very generously, granted free visa extensions for migrants currently in New Zealand with visa expiry dates between 9 May and 31 December 2022. These include Essential Skills Work visa holders, Post Study Work visa holders and Partner of a New Zealander work visa holders. These all receive a 2-year open work visa which extend to their dependents in New Zealand provided they also hold visas based on their relationship as at 9 May 2022).
Visas under the Talent (Accredited Employers), Talent (Arts, Culture and Sports), Long Term Skill Shortage List, Skilled Migrant Job Search, and South Island Contribution (including dependents), were also extended in a similar manner by 6 months.
For further information on these changes, or if you require assistance with accreditation or a visa application process, please email or call our immigration specialist Hetish Locahn on +64210758147 or [email protected]. As always, if in doubt, please reach out.