How the new changes to migrant visas could affect you

How the new changes to migrant visas could affect you

The recent changes to pay thresholds for overseas workers to obtain a Skilled Migrant Residence Visa or an Essential Skills Work Visa are already having severe impacts on lower paid workers – and their employers.

Last year, Immigration New Zealand introduced a number of changes to the policies around visas for migrant workers. One of those that is likely to cause issues is the minimum pay criteria for both visas. From this January, to qualify as a skilled or essential skills migrant, workers in occupations classified as ANZSCO 1-3 must earn at least $20.65 an hour for Essential Skills Visa and $24.29 an hour for Skilled Migrant Visas. For ANZSCO 4 -5 roles, the minimum is $36.44 for both visas.

The flow-on effects for workers and the farms they’re employed on if wages fall under those minimums can be significant to both parties. Anyone earning under those new thresholds is now classified as a lower skilled worker and, under the law, they are not able to support their partners or children for visas and they’re also limited to a maximum total duration of 3 years of Essential Skills visas. After 3 years, they also have to live outside New Zealand for a year before they’re allowed another Essential Skills visa.

As an example, I was recently contacted by a woman asking if her husband would be able to sponsor her and their child for visas when he applied for his next Work Visa. He is a dairy farm assistant which is classified as ANZSCO skill level 5 and currently earns $21.87 per hour. In order for him to sponsor his family for visas, his employer would now need to pay him $36.44 per hour. So, if his employer wants to keep him, they would need to increase his pay by over $15 an hour, because the worker doesn’t want to stay in New Zealand without his family.

There is, however, one additional route to residency for South Island migrant workers -the South Island Contribution Work Visa. If a worker has been employed full-time in the South Island on Essential Skills Work Visas for the 5 years prior to 22 May 2017, they may be granted this Visa which allows them to apply for residency after 2 years (subject to conditions). But be aware, it is a time-locked offer and the ability to apply expires on 23 May 2018 so you need to act now if you think this could work for you.

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Contact our Immigration Team today to discuss how we can assist you.

Disclaimer: This article should not be used as a substitute for immigration / legal advice tailored for your specific circumstances.

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Mike McMellon

Position: Partner
Email: mike.mcmellon@pittandmoore.co.nz
DDI: +64 3 545 6710