Changes to temporary work visas in 2021

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has announced significant changes to the work visa programme, with the closure of six types of work visas and the creation of one new work visa. This major shift will mean employers need to gain accredited employer status to employ staff on the new visa type.

Time to read: 3 mins

What's changing?

As of 1 November 2021, INZ is replacing six temporary work visa types (including the Essential Skills Work Visa and Long-Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa) with a new temporary work visa called the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV). For employers to hire staff using this visa type, they must go through the process to gain Accredited Employer status before hiring any migrant workers.

The six visas that are being replaced are:

  • Essential Skills Work Visa
  • Essential Skills Work Visa approved in principle
  • Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa
  • Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa
  • Silver Fern Job Search Visa (closed Oct 2019)
  • Silver Fern Practical Experience Visa

The AEWV will be issued for either 12 months or 3 years to the holder, depending on the wage, location and availability of workers for the role.

What does this mean for employers?

Employers do not need to worry about Accredited Employer status until they hire their first employee requiring an AEWV. Any employees on non-employer supported visas such as the Working Holiday or Partnership Visas and the like are not affected by this policy change. Employees on one of the visa types being replaced do not need to transfer to the new AEWV Visa unless their visa expires after 1 November 2021.

The process

It is important to note that employers can only apply for or renew the current Accredited Employer status up until 30 June 2021. After this date, applications will close, until the new accreditation system is launched in late September 2021 to facilitate the new AEWV Visa.

Ultimately, INZ is moving from a migrant-led visa process to an employer-led visa process. Under the new employer-led process, there will be three checks:

  1. Employer check (does the Employer have Accredited Employer status?)
  2. Job check (has the job passed the relevant labour market test, market salary rates and so on?)
  3. Migrant check (has the applicant passed generic health, character and qualification checks etc?)

While some details are still to be finalised, such as the cost of becoming an accredited employer, Immigration NZ have stated that there will be two subcategories:

  • Standard: This will be a ‘light touch’ approach for up to five staff on the AEWV at any one time. You will need to have a NZBN, IRD number and be compliant with Employment law.
  • High Volume: This will be more in depth and for having six or more staff on the AEWV at one time.

Accredited Employer status will initially be for 12 months, then renewal will be every 2 years from then onwards. Triangular employers (like recruitment agencies and labour hire companies) and franchise businesses will always have 12-month renewals on their Accredited Employer status.

What's to come

INZ have not finalised all policy relating to AEWV’s. They also need to confirm the pricing structure for Accredited Employer status as well as the Job Check and Migrant Check applications, and this has been scheduled for likely release in August 2021.

They also still are to confirm with employers what evidence they will require for Accredited Employer status, when a labour market test will be required and what the labour market test will entail.

How can we help?

To assist our clients in applying for Accredited Employer status we are promoting a seamless process whereby we can assist in providing supporting information and policies but also have access to a licensed immigration adviser- New Era Consulting for providing technical immigration advice. Thanks to Karen and the team at New Era for assistance in producing this article.

 

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