Changes to Employer Accreditation: What New Zealand employers need to know

By Elly Fleming

20 May 2021

The new employer accreditation regime is looking to come into effect in late September, with it being compulsory from 1 November. There are also changes coming with the introduction of the new Accredited Employer Work Visa. This article outlines the key areas of change, and the benefits of the current and the new regime.

Meanwhile, employers can still apply for accreditation under the current scheme until 30 June.

The question is, is the current or new regime best for you?

With the end of June looming, we recommend urgent legal advice is sought, so you know what the right option is for your business.

Dates at-a-glance

  • 30 June 2021: the current Accredited Employer regime will cease, with no new or renewing applications accepted from 1 July 2021;
  • late September 2021: the new Accredited Employer regime will be introduced and employers can voluntarily apply for accreditation;
  • 31 October 2021: six existing temporary work visa categories will close (including Essential Skills and Talent (Accredited Employer) work visa categories). New visa applications under the current visa categories won’t be accepted from 1 November 2021. Existing Visas will remain valid;
  • 1 November 2021: The new Accredited Employer regime becomes compulsory for employers who wish to support migrant workers under the new Accredited Employer Work Visa.

As the design of the new regime is finalised, it’s possible some of these dates will be pushed out, but we still recommend employers are ready.

The current accredited employer regime

An employer who successfully secures accreditation status with Immigration New Zealand, can support multiple migrant workers applying for a Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa.

Under the current policy, the accredited employer must pay the migrant worker a base salary of at least $79,560 per annum (or $38.25 per hour for a 40-hour week).

For some migrant workers, in the current immigration environment, the Talent (Accredited Employer) Visa Category may be their only chance to secure a pathway to residence in New Zealand.

Becoming an accredited employer is an intricate process that requires employers to demonstrate they are in a sound financial position, have good human resource practices, good work practices, including compliance with minimum employment standards as well as immigration law and are committed to training and employing New Zealanders.

Benefits of accreditation for employers under existing regime:

  • don’t have to continually test the local labour market before offering jobs to migrant workers;
  • can retain skilled migrant workers by providing them with a secure pathway to residence;
  • can support work visa applications for multiple migrant workers during the accreditation period – no limit on the number of migrants/roles;
  • attracting talent – skilled migrant workers prefer employers who can give them a pathway to residence.

As mentioned above, the 30 June deadline to apply for accreditation under the current scheme is fast approaching, so urgent legal advice is recommended, before the opportunity expires.

What is going to change?

The new compulsory employer accreditation regime is quite a shake up for immigration.

It will be an employer-led regime. Migrant workers won’t be able to apply for the new Accredited Employer Work visa until their employers have passed through two mandatory “gates” with Immigration New Zealand. Then the migrant worker has to pass the third gate.

Employers will pay Immigration New Zealand’s fees for the Employer Check (Accreditation) and Job Check stages outlined below.

The three gates process:

Gate 1: The Employer Check (Accreditation). There will be three accreditation levels:

  • Standard – for employers wanting to hire 5 or fewer migrant workers on Accredited Employer Work Visas during the accreditation period;
  • High-Volume – for employers wanting to hire 6 or more migrant workers on Accredited Employer Work Visas during the accreditation period; and
  • Franchise/Labour Hire – for businesses supplying staff to third-party places of employment.

Gate 2: The Job Check – employers will need to provide evidence that the job meets new criteria, including paying the market rate, complying with employment and immigration laws and labour market test, if required;

Gate 3: The Migrant Check – migrant workers need to apply for the Accredited Employer Work Visa and demonstrate they meet the visa criteria, including health, character and skills/qualifications to perform the role on offer.

Where an employer is not able to pass the Employer Check (Accreditation) and Job Check stages, they won’t be able to hire migrant workers in most circumstances, unless the migrant worker already holds an open work visa.

Existing accredited employers will need to transition to the new regime. What this transition involves or how it will be managed is still being decided by Immigration New Zealand.

On November 1, the following six temporary work visa categories will be replaced with one visa – the Accredited Employer Work Visa.

  1. Essential Skills including the Essential Skills in Demand Lists
  2. Work to Residence – Long term Skill Shortage List occupation
  3. Approval-in-Principle (Essential Skills)
  4. Talent (Accredited Employer)
  5. Silver Fern (Practical Experience)
  6. Silver Fern (Job Search)

This means there will be fewer options for migrant workers trying to work or get residency in New Zealand.

Until 31 October, employers will still be able to support work visa applications under the Essential Skills, or Talent (Accredited Employer), or Long Term Skill Shortage List work visa categories.

Benefits of accreditation for employers under the new regime:

  • access to migrant workers – ability to support a certain number of work visa applications during the accreditation period, numbers will depend on the accreditation level the employer obtains;
  • limited ability to bypass the requirement to test the local labour market before offering a job to a migrant worker – will depend on a number of factors, including location of job and wages;
  • ability to provide a pathway to residence for highly paid migrants only (for migrants earning at least 200% of the median wage or higher).

Will your business be affected?

The new regime will place pressure on employers, particularly those who have never been accredited or are not used to dealing with the complexities of Immigration New Zealand.

Compliance obligations on employers will also increase, so it’s critical for businesses to plan ahead and talk to us.

If the new regime is the best option for you, and you already employ migrant workers or intend to hire them in the near future, now is the time to get prepared, so you are ready to submit your Employer Accreditation application by September 2021.

We anticipate thousands of applications will be made when the regime opens, resulting in  processing delays that could have a detrimental impact on your business. We highly recommend employers don’t leave applying for accreditation to the last minute.

We have also published a resource for migrant workers addressing what they can expect over the next year and what they should consider.

We will continue to provide updates about the changes as they are announced. We encourage employers to subscribe to our Publications page.

Talk to us

We understand the needs of employers. What sets us apart is that we are experts in both employment law and immigration, so we can advise on all immigration/visa-related issues as well as employment-related issues.

Contact our us for professional legal advice that will give you a peace of mind.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended as legal advice. It is important that you seek legal advice that is specific to your circumstances.

Elly Fleming

Elly Fleming

Position: Associate
DDI: +64 3 545 6714

Topics: All Select