Employ Overseas Workers? Make Sure You’re up with Recent Law Changes

Migrant workers have been a topic of hot debate lately, as part of the political agenda around immigration.

In the lead up to the election, the Government has announced a raft of changes which on one hand tighten some requirements, while on the other, give some migrant workers new opportunities. Here is an overview of four of these changes.

New restrictions for non-compliant employers

Employers who breach minimum employment standards and immigration requirements for their migrant workers now face access restrictions to the foreign labour market including stand-down periods. This will affect employers supporting Work Visa and residence applications and Approvals in Principle, seeking Accredited Employer status and those who are part of the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme.

Pathway to residence for some South Island temporary migrants

From last month, a new pathway to residence for some South Island temporary migrants will open for a limited time only. This particular development may help employers in several sectors, (including the hospitality, horticulture/viticulture, and aged care sector) retain experienced and reliable workers who are committed to your industry and to the South Island.

Employees who have held an Essential Work Visa for the past five years or longer, on the basis of working in South Island, should discuss eligibility criteria with an immigration lawyer.

Proposed changes to temporary migration settings

From 14 August 2017, it has been proposed that remuneration of migrant workers is used to determine:

a) Their eligibility for an Essential Skills Work Visa
b) The length of the Essential Skills Work Visa
c) Whether migrant workers can bring their children and partner with them to New Zealand.

For instance, someone offered a job as a Chef (ANZSCO level 2) with an hourly rate of between $15.75 – $23.49 will only be granted an Essential Skills Work Visa for 1 year and would not have a right to bring their children and/or partner with them to New Zealand.

Another significant proposal is the introduction of a maximum duration of three years for migrant workers in lower-skilled occupations. After this time, a migrant worker would need to spend a year outside New Zealand before they could apply for another Essential Skills Work Visa in a lower-skilled occupation.

Skilled Migrant Category Changes

Skilled Migrant Category is the most common pathway to residence. From 14 August, for employment to be considered skilled, new additional requirements will also take into account the applicant’s salary. To be eligible, migrants will need to have a base salary of at least $48,859 a year. For jobs that are not currently considered skilled, they would qualify where the applicant’s base salary is at least $73,299 a year.

Changes will also put more focus on skilled work experience, more recognition of skill levels in the 30-39 year age group and high salary levels.

Immigration New Zealand are aiming to make more information on this available from June.

So to make sure you comply, check your current systems against the legal requirements, keep abreast with the developments in this area as they have the potential to have an impact on business operations as well as on compliance with employment and immigration requirements and if in doubt or if you have any questions, seek legal advice.

For more information please contact

Heather Collins, Solicitor at Pitt & Moore
E: heather.collins@pittandmoore.co.nz
T: +64 3 545 6702

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