Will certainty of stay and longer visas appeal to more skilled migrants?

By Elly Fleming

16 August 2023

The Government may be hoping that strategic changes to the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) announced this week will tip the balance in New Zealand’s favour when skilled migrants weigh up their relocation options.

At the least, the introduction of a maximum continuous stay period for all AEWV holders should give workers more certainty and enable longer-term planning for their family and careers.

The same applies to employers, who will appreciate knowing how long migrant employees can stay in their employ.

In this article we summarise the changes to the AEWV that take effect from 27 November 2023. This information is relevant to both migrants and New Zealand employers.

Pitt & Moore provide expert advice on immigration, employment and visa rules and processes such as pathways to residence, so please contact us for some expert guidance.

Introducing a maximum continuous stay

This is one of the most significant changes – the implementation of a maximum continuous stay for AEWV holders.

AEWV holders paid the median wage or more can stay for a maximum of five years. After that, they must either secure an alternative visa or leave and stay outside of New Zealand for 12 continuous months before they are eligible for a new AEWV (and a second five-year continuous stay).

The maximum length of stay depends on sector roles

AEWV holders paid below the median wage and employed under Sector Agreements have a range of shorter maximum continuous stays, and shorter periods required outside of New Zealand before they are eligible for a new AEWV.

Also, the maximum visa length is not always the same as maximum continuous stay. This means that the maximum continuous stay can comprise more than one AEWV.

For example:

  • Transport sector workers can stay for five years, on a three-year visa. A worker would have to apply for a second AEWV after three years, but it would only be valid for two years (ie to a total of five years).
  • Seasonal snow and adventure tourism works can stay for five years, on seven-month visas. They would have to hold more than eight visas to achieve a maximum stay.

These are just two examples; there are different ranges for the care, construction and infrastructure, tourism and hospitality, and meat and seafood processing sectors. The periods required outside of New Zealand in between maximum stays also differ.

Care workers get longer visas

Another significant change is the extension of the length of the AEWV those in the care workforce sector who, although able to be paid less than the median wage under their sector agreement, will have their AEWV extended from two to three years, from 27 November.

Pathways to residency come with privileges

Migrants on a recognised pathway to residence will be able to apply to stay on an AEWV once they have reached the maximum continuous stay – without needing to leave the country for 12 months.

We should see more detail from INZ, closer to November, about recognised pathways to residence and about rules concerning AEWV holders’ ability to reside lawfully in New Zealand.

What about those workers with AEWVs approved before the changes kick in?

From 27 November, workers can apply for another AEWV to receive the visa balance of five years if they:

  • have, or had, an AEWV approved before 27 November 2023, and
  • have a job or job offer paying at least the median wage at the time you apply for another AEWV.

How to support your workers to apply for their AEWV balance

You can support your migrant worker to apply for their visa length balance if you are paying at least the median wage, or you employ them as part of the care workforce sector agreement.

You will not need to do another Job Check for the role and you can reuse the existing job token, if:

  • your employee has an AEWV on 26 November 2023
  • you offer them the same role, in the same location, and
  • you pay them at least the amount listed in their current AEWV conditions.

Talk to us

If you are a migrant employee, or an employer looking to recruit migrant workers and support their career in New Zealand, we offer an initial 15-minute free consultation to all new clients. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our experienced team of immigration lawyers.

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