Employers’ update on the Accredited Employer Work Visa: Prepare to be audited, and pitfalls to avoid

By Elly Fleming

16 May 2023

Do you need to hire skilled migrants to fill vacancies, grow your business or move into that new direction? Since the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) opened last year, there have been multiple tweaks to immigration rules to understand – and pitfalls to avoid.

There are also a number of significant changes on the horizon that will have a dramatic impact on businesses throughout New Zealand. These include the upcoming changes to work rights for partners of temporary visa holders, who will generally only be able to work for an accredited employer in a role paying at or above the median wage from 31 May 2023, as well as the planned expansion of employer accreditation to all employers who hire migrants due to commence in 2024.

From 31 May 2023, people will be able to check on the Immigration New Zealand’s website if an employer is accredited.

If you previously considered that it wouldn’t be necessary for your business to gain accreditation, now is the time to re-evaluate.

Factoring in median wage increases

The median wage increase, in place since February 2023, has affected wage thresholds for businesses who fit into AEWV sector agreements construction and infrastructure, meat processing, onshore seafood processing and the seasonal snow and adventure tourism.

A new transport sector agreement, finalised in April 2023, grants a median wage exemption to enable employers to fill critical truck, bus, and maritime transport roles.

The ins and outs of accreditation

One positive development is that Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is now granting automatic extensions for employer accreditations. If your organisation applied for its first accreditation before 4 July 2023, that accreditation will automatically be extended by 12 months, and will be valid for 24 months from the approval date.

You should ensure that your organisation holds the correct accreditation type, suitable to your needs and circumstances. Without the correct type, you must apply to renew or upgrade your accreditation, and pay the full INZ application fee.  

To avoid this hassle, we recommend seeking expert advice before you apply.

Don’t get caught out by post-accreditation checks

In April 2023, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) announced the start of post-accreditation audits to monitor compliance with the AEWV rules.

Any accredited business may be selected for an audit, where you will be asked to provide evidence. Fail to do so and your business could have its accreditation status revoked or suspected.

The range of information that MBIE can ask for includes, but is not limited to:

  • financial statements to demonstrate financial viability
  • evidence of PAYE payments to your migrant employees
  • evidence about how offshore recruitment agents were paid
  • evidence that settlement information was provided to migrant employees
  • logs of hours worked by migrant workers
  • information about your key business people and their role.

From our experience, when it comes to compliance it is advisable to keep comprehensive records. And given the potential implications for businesses (in serious cases, MBIE may prosecute) – always take expert advice.

Common pitfalls to avoid

Failing to pay migrants the requisite hourly rate can lead to considerable problems under both employment and immigration law.  You risk losing your accreditation status and could face a very costly claim against your business in the Employment Relations Authority.

Another area where employers fall into strife is giving advice or assisting with migrants’ work visa applications. Generally, employers must not provide migrants with immigration advice, such as which visa to apply for, or how they should complete the application form questions.

At Pitt & Moore we have also seen the fall-out for employers who fail to check that migrant workers have the right to work on an interim visa. This is not always the case and there are serious penalties under the Immigration Act for wrongly enabling migrants to work.

Many employers tend to inadvertently include inaccurate information in their Job Check applications as a result of flaws with the design and format of the questions used across the online platform. This can create havoc for migrants’ visa applications and in some cases can ultimately result in the employer needing to lodge a fresh Job Check application at an additional cost to the business.

Expert advice is readily available

If you have any questions or would like assistance with your company’s accreditation or job check applications please get in touch with Pitt & Moore’s specialist employment and immigration team: 03 548 8349.

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
Email: elly.fleming@pittandmoore.co.nz
DDI: +64 3 545 6714

Topics: All Select