Immigration in 2024 – What is on the horizon for New Zealand? 

By Elly Fleming

19 January, 2024

A new year with a new Government at the helm inevitably means new developments in immigration policy. Over the course of 2023, Pitt & Moore highlighted these upcoming changes to immigration rules and what they mean for visa applicants, visa holders and New Zealand employers.  

As we head into 2024, we are yet to see a clear plan from the new Government on immigration. However, from what has already been announced, we can expect the following:  

Ongoing scrutiny of the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) system

In response to repeated instances of migrant exploitation that came to light throughout 2023, the AEWV has seen an overhaul. 

This has led to increased scrutiny on employers during the Employer Accreditation and Job Check application processes, and we expect this close examination of paperwork to continue in 2024. This will lead to longer processing times – employers should prepare to plan well ahead. 

Other changes to the AEWV include a longer maximum visa length (up to five years) and an increased maximum continuous stay period (also up to five years). Accredited Employers can support their employee to apply for their AEWV balance if they are paid at least the median wage, or they are employed as part of the care workforce sector agreement. We recommend that employers and migrant workers seek immigration advice and assistance with this process ahead of time.  

Changes to the median wage

Meanwhile, just before Christmas, it was announced that the median wage increase due in February will be paused. 

All current wage rates in place will remain, including: 
• NZ$29.66 per hour for migrants employed on most AEWVs 
• NZ$26.16 per hour for AEWV holders covered by the care workforce sector agreement 
• Specific wage rates for other sector agreements and roles with exemptions to the median wage. 
Employers and migrants should be aware that, at this stage, the median wage will still increase to NZ$31.61 in February 2024 for other visa categories that use it, such as the Skilled Migrant Category and Parent Category. Applications received before the increase will not be impacted.

It is anticipated that the new Government will make further changes to the median wage in 2024.  

Increased visa application fees

A review of visa application fee settings is expected, with new, higher fees anticipated to be applied from the middle of 2024.  

We recommend that employers and migrants plan ahead, and wherever possible submit their applications early in 2024 to avoid fee increases. It is anticipated that some visa categories will see a significant rise in application fees.  

The new Worker Protection (Migrant and Other Employees) Act is here 

On 6 January 2024, The Worker Protection (Migrant and Other Employees) Act, which amends the employer offences and penalties in the Immigration Act 2009, the Employment Relations Act 2000 and the Companies Act 1993, came into force. 

This means a raft of updates to the system of enforcement and penalties to deter migrant employee exploitation. Pitt & Moore wrote about the Act’s key provisions in more detail in an earlier article. 

In short, the Act represents a significant shift in workplace relations policy and will have major implications for employers and employees, including, but not limited to, the following: 

  • Accredited Employers have to notify Immigration New Zealand (INZ) of any changes to their compliance with INZ’s Accredited Employer rules within 10 working days of them knowing about them. INZ also expects to be notified no matter how minor the breach of immigration rules. By doing the right thing and self-reporting, Accredited Employers will be penalised even more from 6 January. Plus, there is a risk that accreditation status may not be renewed. 
  • Immigration Officers or Labour Inspectors will be able to name and shame, as well as fine, employers (irrespective of whether they hold accreditation status with INZ) for any breach in their migrant employee’s work-related visa conditions, even for small and accidental breaches. 
  • Immigration Officers will be able to more easily obtain and check employment-related documents as part of ongoing compliance efforts. 
  • Any violation of a person’s work visa at all could see employers fined up to $3,000 per employee and even higher court-imposed fines.  
  • Migrant employees will be able to ask Labour Inspectors to enforce their entitlement not just to minimum wages but to the wages their visa conditions stipulate. 

Many New Zealand employers would benefit from considering implementing better standards of governance and compliance risk oversight, as well as systems for management of operational risks related to immigration and employment law obligations. Pitt & Moore strongly advises employers to make sure they are ready for the Act now.  

Permanent resident visa applications are moving online 

From the end of January 2024, INZ is planning to move Permanent Resident Visa (PRV) applications into their Immigration Online system (instead of using paper-based applications).  

This change is coming ahead of INZ’s prediction of a significant increase in PRV applications in 2024, with a large number of 2021 Resident Visa applicants becoming eligible to apply. 

This shift to Immigration Online means the following applications will be able to be submitted electronically:  

  • Permanent Resident Visa  
  • Second or Subsequent Resident Visa  
  • Variation of Travel Conditions of a resident visa  

Applicants will then be able to check their application status online and no longer have to submit physical documents, such as passports, or call INZ for updates on the progress of applications. This is a welcome development. We hope to see more applications moving online during 2024.  

New visas to be introduced

A new five-year renewable Parent Visitor Visa has been promised to assist with reuniting families and bridge the gap between the current lottery-based Parent Resident Category and short-term Parent/Grandparent Visitor Visa. This can’t come fast enough. We have been inundated with enquiries from families about when the new visa will be available.  

A new Global Growth Tech Residence Visa for people with highly specialised skills who have worked at a top global tech company earning at least NZ$400,000 per annum also appears to be on the horizon. This visa will initially be capped at 250 successful applicants in the first year. We can’t predict how soon this visa category will be introduced or how great the demand for it will be.   

A Digital Nomad Visa is also on the horizon. This is a 12-month work visa to attract skilled, mobile people to come to New Zealand while working remotely for an overseas-based company, with the option to apply for a work or residence visa later if they choose to stay. Again, this visa will initially be capped at 250 successful applicants in the first year. From the limited information released so far, it’s not clear when this visa will be introduced and, in the current economic climate, coupled with the availability of Working Holidays Visas, it’s not clear how it will benefit New Zealand.  

New Zealand will continue to keep pace with Australia 

On 11 December 2023, the Australian Government released its Migration Strategy, which will overhaul the country’s migration programme over the next decade. We have summarised the strategy’s broad initiatives and what to expect from the Australian Government in a separate article.  

Many of the changes we have outlined in this article are already in place in Australia, with a few differences. For example, the Australian Government’s Migration Strategy includes a commitment to reforming the ‘points test’ for permanent skilled migration. In New Zealand, a new points system for the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa was introduced in October 2023.  

Both countries are also exploring further options for enforcing employer non-compliance with immigration obligations, with details to be announced later this year. 

In this climate, now more than ever, it is critical for all employers to ensure that they verify the work rights of all employees. This includes verifying that all employees have permission to work and, if they are a visa holder, are only working within any work conditions imposed on their visa. 

Talk to us

Pitt & Moore provide expert advice on immigration, employment and visa rules and processes, so please contact us for expert guidance on your specific circumstances. We offer an initial free 15-minute consultation for immigration matters. 

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