Proposed Immigration Changes and the Uncertain Future

by Elena Bollino

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) will introduce an Accredited Employer Temporary Work Visa (AEWV) later this year, which will substitute six current categories of work visas. In a significant change, it will be mandatory for all employers to be accredited in order to support a non-New Zealander for an AEWV. 

There will be three types of employer accreditation: (i) standard accreditation for companies who wish to hire up to five migrants on AEWVs at any one time, (ii) high-volume accreditation for companies who wish to hire six or more migrants on AEWVs at any one time, and (iii) an accreditation with additional criteria for franchisees and labour hire companies. It is important to note that this differs from the current accreditation scheme with the application process likely to be completely different.

The new process for employing foreign worker will be employer-led and will involve a three-stage process: (1) Employer Check (accreditation), (2) Job Check and (3) Migrant Check.

Whilst the finer details have yet to be released by immigration, key dates to note include: 30 June 2021 – employers will be unable to renew or apply for Employer Accreditation (current process), Labour Hire Accreditation and Approval in Principal to recruit. Employers will be able to apply for the new accreditation from late September 2021 (date tbc). Employers won’t need to be accredited until they wish to hire someone on the AEWV, though it is likely a number will seek accreditation immediately.

Work visas under the current process can be lodged with INZ up until 31 October 2021 as from 1 November 2021 the new AEWV kicks in. This may mean, those wanting some visa security look to apply for a further visa sooner rather than later.  Those on a pathway to residence through the Talent (Accredited Employer) Work to Residence Work Visa or a Long-Term Skills Shortage Work to Residence work visa won’t be impacted by the changes, though again note that from 1 November 2021 no new applications can be made under these categories.

There will be a new category of residence visa for anyone holding an AEWV for two-years, working for an accredited employer and earning twice the median wage. Minimal details around requirements, other than pay thresholds, have been given at this stage.

In other news, the selection of Expression of Interests (EOI) under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) residence visa remains suspended with the Government announcing a review of the category.  Immigration Minister Hon Kris Faafoi announced that when it re-opens it will look very different.

Employers also need to be aware of the possible increase in wage thresholds from $25.50 to $27.00 per hour, which the Minister indicated would occur in July 2021 at the earliest.  The Government continues to have the view that New Zealand depends too heavily on migrant workers and that an “immigration reset” is required.

Part of this ‘reset’ includes a Productivity Commission inquiry into immigration settings. This inquiry will, as stated “complement existing work being led by the Minister of Immigration, including the implementation of reforms to temporary work visas and a review of the Skilled Migrant Category visa.” The report is due in April 2022. Does it mean that the Skilled Migrant Category residence visa will reopen after that date? Only time will tell.

Elena Bollino, Owner and Director at Apollo Immigration Ltd