In Focus: Further changes to Essential Skills Work Visas

Earlier this month, the Minister of Immigration announced several unexpected changes to Essential Skills visas, which are effective immediately. These changes will benefit not only migrant workers currently in New Zealand but also their employers.

Increased visa duration for jobs paying below median wage

The maximum visa period that can be granted for a job paid below the median wage (currently $27 per hour) has been increased from 12 months to 24 months. This is welcome news for migrant workers and their employers.

New streamline application process

Applicants for an Essential Skills visa who already hold any type of work visa* or a student visa to study Masters or PhD, remaining in the same full time role, with the same employer, in the same location, do not need to:

  • provide their employment agreement
  • provide their medical or police certificates if these were already submitted with their previous visa application to Immigration New Zealand
  • provide evidence of labour market test requirements being satisfied.

For the above mentioned applications, employers do not need to prove they have been genuinely unsuccessful at attracting a New Zealander into the role before offering it to a migrant worker, who is applying on the basis of employment in the same role that they already hold.

However, employers still need to show there are no New Zealanders available for any new vacant roles or when migrant workers are going to change the geographical region in which they work.

*This can include Working Holiday visas. Also included are Critical Purpose visitor visas granted as a critical health worker, or granted for more than six months as an ‘other critical worker’.

Online visa application system temporarily suspended

The current online visa application system is temporarily suspended for Essential Skills applications only.

Essential Skills Visa applicants will need to submit hard copy applications by mail or where available into the few drop boxes remaining, until 30th of August  2021.  A new hard copy Essential Skills Work Visa Application Form (1266) is now available on INZ’s website for this purpose.

It is likely that this manual process will result in some initial delays in visa application processing. Depending on your visa expiry dates, where possible it is recommended to use the online visa application system once it is again available (from 30th of August 2021).

Stand-down period deferred to mid 2022

The stand down policy, which requires some Essential Skills migrant workers who have held ‘lower skilled’ visas for three consecutive years to take a one-year stand-down period outside of New Zealand before they are able to apply for a further ‘lower skilled’ or ‘lower-paid’ work visa, has been suspended temporarily for applications made until 1 July 2022.

Get professional advice

We highly recommend for temporary visa holders who currently hold Essential Skills Work Visas, to get in touch with us now so we can expertly guide you through your options for remaining in New Zealand.

How Pitt & Moore can help

We offer an initial free consultation to all new clients to discuss your particular circumstances and what services we can provide.

What sets us apart is that we are experts in each step of the immigration process. This means that we can advise on all immigration and visa-related issues.

Talk to us

Should you require assistance navigating what are becoming increasingly complicated rules for Skilled Migrant Residence and Essential Skills Work Visa Applications contact our Immigration Team.

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.

Topics: All Select

Elly Fleming

Position: Associate
DDI: +64 3 545 6714