Will your AEWV applications pass the fine-tooth comb test?

By Lavinia Askin

8 September 2023

Employers who depend on migrant workers might be wondering about the consequences of the scrutiny Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is under for alleged mishandling of Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) applications.

To recap, INZ faces allegations that immigration staff have failed to adequately check employers’ accreditation applications, skipping over the job check process and making other shortcuts to granting accreditation.

These failures have come to light amid reporting of serious migrant exploitation by some accredited companies.

An independent inquiry has been ordered by Immigration Minister Andrew Little, and INZ itself is investigating at least 173 companies. Accreditation has been rapidly revoked from “dodgy” companies, and some migrants are being turned around at their home border.

What do the investigations mean for New Zealand employers?

As a quick reminder, Employer Accreditation and Job Checks are two of the new three-step, employer-led AEWV process that replaced six visas in 2022. In 2023, all employers now need accreditation before they can recruit and hire migrants under the AEWV scheme. In 2024 the government is planning to expand Employer Accreditation to all employers who hire migrants on any visa (for example including student visas, working holiday visas and partnership-based visas). 

If accreditation checks were ever loose (and this will be determined through the above-mentioned investigations) they certainly won’t be now.

INZ is under scrutiny to ensure that they are conducting all necessary checks. INZ will be increasing its focus on financial paperwork when it comes to accreditation applications, and stepping up overall regulatory compliance checks for employers and sponsors of migrant workers.

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

The fine-tooth comb is coming for your applications

Over the past year my colleagues and I have drawn attention to the necessary checks and balances employers should take throughout the three-step AEWV process.

These are more important than ever. 

In April, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) announced the start of post-accreditation audits to monitor compliance with the AEWV rules, as summarised in our blog at the time.  

The claims against INZ, that potentially thousands of businesses should not have been accredited will have a bearing on the auditing, compelling us to emphasise again that: 

  • any accredited business may be selected for an audit, where they will be asked to provide evidence. Fail to do so, and the business could have its accreditation status revoked or suspected.
  • when it comes to compliance it is advisable to keep comprehensive records. Further, given the potential implications for businesses (in serious cases, MBIE may prosecute) – always take expert advice.

Our advice to New Zealand directors and senior executives

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. 

For larger organisations, best practice would be to adopt a comprehensive business-wide risk management approach where immigration and employment compliance is embedded into all decision-making processes within the organisation.

For smaller organisations, this means being aware of the risks and having robust systems and processes to manage them. From our experience, annual independent reviews of internal systems and processes, including documentation, can be invaluable to identify and address any issues or flaws.  

We are finding an increasing focus on personal liability of directors from the regulators. We are already seeing an increase in work site visits, inspections, and audits.

Directors and senior managers have a clear responsibility to develop and drive a culture of compliance. The consequences of either immigration or employment non-compliance can be significant. 

Expert advice is readily available

If you have any questions or would like assistance with your company’s accreditation or job check applications please get in touch with Pitt & Moore’s specialist employment and immigration team: 03 548 8349.

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.

Lavinia Askin

Lavinia Askin

Position: Associate
Email: lavinia.askin@pittandmoore.co.nz
DDI: +64 3 928 0722

Topics: All Select