Earlier this year, in our article entitled ‘Compulsory Employer Accreditation Coming Your Way’, we explained that the Government is proposing a significant change to the way that New Zealand employers support work visas by suggesting that all employers hiring migrant workers under a new framework will need to be accredited.
To recap briefly, the Government’s proposals released for consultation in December 2018 indicated that a new employer-led framework for employer assisted temporary work visas would consist of three gateways:
Gate 1: The Employer Check (Accreditation)
Gate 2: The Job Check (Labour Market Test)
Gate 3: The Migrant Check
This means that under this proposed framework, the onus of providing information at the initial stage shifts from the migrant worker to the New Zealand employer. Employers would need to follow a process of submitting an application to Immigration New Zealand with a range of prescribed supporting evidence about their business and paying an applicable fee.
As part of this new framework, the Government would scarp six temporary work visa categories, including Essential Skills, Work to Residence – Long Term Skill Shortage List Occupation, and Talent (Accredited Employer). In essence, resulting in fewer pathways and visa options for migrant workers.
Feedback was invited on the proposals, with consultation running for three months. We understand that 641 submissions were received by the deadline of 18 March 2019, many questioning the need for the drastic overhaul.
At the time of writing this article, no further formal announcement had been made by the Minister.
The Minister of Immigration, Iain Lees-Galloway, indicated at a recent New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment conference held in Auckland on 24 August 2019 that he is aiming to announce the new employer-led framework including the requirements for compulsory employer accreditation within the next two months. He acknowledged at the conference that the new framework would be a big change for New Zealand employers and said that the new provisions would be phased in to give employers time to come to grips with the new requirements.
He also said that many employers in the hospitality industry in particular need to lift their game if they want to retain the right to employ migrant workers. He stressed that good employers would be rewarded.
In the consultation documentation released for comment it was flagged that the new framework with compulsory employer accreditation would be implemented between April and June 2020. This timeline is yet to be confirmed by the Minister. However, given that 2020 is an election year, the Government will no doubt want to have any snags in the employer accreditation application process addressed before voters go to the polls.
The numbers of visa applicants and, more importantly New Zealand employers that these proposals will impact was mentioned in the Cabinet Paper, that was released along with the consultation documentation, as being:
approximately 16,000 New Zealand employers supported visa applications under the Essential Skills Category alone in 2017/2018. That is around 80% of the total number of New Zealand employers who supported employer-assisted temporary work visa applications in 2017/2018;
47,000 temporary work visas issued in 2017/2018 were employer-assisted. That is approximately 20% of the 230,000 temporary work visas issued in 2017/2018.
The Minister of Immigration has signalled strongly that compulsory employer accreditation will be implemented.
In preparation for this change it would be prudent for New Zealand businesses, who already employ migrant workers or intend to in the near future, to review their processes and practices to ensure that they would be able to meet Immigration New Zealand’s requirements for accreditation.
In fact it would be prudent for all New Zealand businesses to make themselves ‘accreditation’ ready given they may need to employ migrants in the future even if that need is not there now. All New Zealand businesses should carefully consider whether they:
meet all immigration and employment law standards
have the requisite workplace policies and processes in place
understand the consequences of being placed on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s stand down list
want to offer a pathway to residence for prospective migrant workers.
Once the compulsory employer accreditation comes into effect we anticipate that there are likely to be processing waiting periods which could have a detrimental impact on your business. As a result, we recommend that employers don’t leave applying for accreditation to the last minute.
We will continue to monitor the developments in this area and will provide further updates as needed. We encourage employers to subscribe to our Publications page.
Contact our Immigration Team for professional legal advice that will give you 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.