What you need to know about the new Visa rules

By Elly Fleming

12 May 2022

In our April blog post we described the complexities of the then-newly announced Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) criteria.

The criteria will rule out some businesses for accreditation and could dissuade others from applying, at a time when many businesses still desperately need to recruit specialist workers from overseas.

Now, with the announcements yesterday from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Immigration New Zealand (INZ), we have further detail about upcoming changes and process. There is substantial media coverage and commentary happening, following the announcements. In this blog, I’ll focus on several need-to-know new fishhooks. I’ll also outline again the accreditation criteria that remain drawbacks for some employers.

To quickly summarise the timeframes: With the border now fully reopening from 31 July 2022, from 4 July all work visa categories will be open for applications (including the AEWV) and from 31 July all student and visitor visa categories will reopen. The maritime border will also reopen on 31 July.

Overall, we anticipate that visa processing timeframes will blow out across the board as INZ won’t be able to cope with the volume in the coming months. We also anticipate that the following fishhooks will complicate the process for many employers, to the point that many risk missing out.

Pitt & Moore advisors can explain the rules exactly as they apply to you and your business however, so please contact us for some expert navigation and advice.

In 2023 all employers will need accreditation if they hire migrants

A major change that has gone under the radar is a new requirement from 2023 that will see all employers who hire migrants on any visa (not just on AEWVs) needing to be accredited (see more detail about accreditation below). This major policy change is contrary to all of the messaging that Immigration NZ and the Government has been putting out to date. It will have significant implications for employers across all industries.

Different rules for partners of AEWV work visa holders

From December 2022 partners of AEWV visa holders whose occupations are not on the Green List or who are not earning at least twice the median wage in other roles will not be entitled to an open partnership-based work visa but will need to qualify for an AEWV or an alternative temporary work visa in their own right. This change may not be widely known yet and is likely to discourage many migrants from coming to New Zealand.

Critical shortages may continue despite the green list

The fishhook here is that the two Green List workforce categories that come with either immediate or a two-year pathway to residency, will not address critical shortages in some workforce types.

These include caregivers in nursing homes, workers for meat processing, seafood and farming industries and workers for the hospitality and tourism sectors. Pathways to residency have not been offered for these roles because they are seen by the Government as low-skilled. But these are industries that need access to workers at all levels – not just highly-skilled workers.

Changes to post-study work rights and cost of living requirements for future international students

The fishhook here is tougher rules for new international students, including higher fund requirements for living costs in New Zealand and significant changes to post-study work rights.

Meanwhile, the following ‘instructions’ for employer accreditation remain.

You need to be accredited

Businesses need to be accredited before they can recruit overseas workers under the AEWV. This is INZ’s way of incentivising businesses to employ more New Zealanders and only recruit offshore for what they consider to be genuine shortages.

The accreditation criteria will rule out a number of businesses and dissuade others from even trying to get accreditation.  Please jump back to my April blog for full information, but to summarise again briefly here:

  1. A New Zealand Business Number (NZBN) is required: There are very few exceptions to this rule.
  2. Your business must show it’s viable: This will challenge some businesses after years of COVID-19-related downturns. You must show that you’ve not made a loss over the last 24 months, have a positive cashflow for each of the last six months, and more.
  3. Helping migrant workers settle: Settlement support activities now rest with the employer rather than INZ. You must show you are trying to help migrants settle in New Zealand, provide a raft of information to employees.
  4. Completing Employment New Zealand modules: You must give AEWV employees time during paid work hours to complete the modules. If you are hiring managers, human resource managers or directors, or making recruitment decisions involving AEWV holders, you must also complete the employer modules on employment rights.
  5. Passing on costs: You cannot pass on costs related to your accreditation or employment processes to your AEWV employee. We recommended you also review your employment contracts for any relevant clauses and update the contracts.
  6. Additional requirements for franchisee employers: Franchisees are required to be trading or carrying out business in New Zealand, for at least 12 months prior to application. A minimum of 15% of a franchisee’s employees must be New Zealand citizens or residents and there are more rules about minimum hours and ownership.
  7. Losing accreditation: If you breach any of the criteria for accreditation, you will lose it. Additionally, if for any reason you breach the Immigration Act 2009, you will also face a charge and stand-down period.
  8. Additional criterium: A new, additional criterium requires employers employing all migrants (not just on AEWVs) to be accredited.

Talk to us

If you are unsure of how this complex raft of new rules applies to you, your accreditation application or recruitment plans and processes, we can help.

How Pitt & Moore can help

We offer an initial 15 minute 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 as well as in employment law. This means that we can advise on all immigration, employment and visa-related issues.

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