Immigration Policy Changes affecting your Business – Changes to hiring workers from overseas

March 13, 2020

in Employment,Immigration

In September 2019 the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) announced significant policy changes to Immigration New Zealand’s (INZ) Temporary Work Visas and the Accredited Employer regime with the first of changes coming into effect as early as October 2019.

These changes will mean a significant overhaul for employers who recruit highly skilled or essential skills workers from overseas as well as workers that are recruited or apply for temporary work visas.

The changes to the current systems are being promoted as a system that will be led by employers for employers. Essentially there will be greater onus on employers and scrutiny by INZ of employers and their business to ensure compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements in respect to remuneration and other employer/employee obligations, benefits and entitlements as enshrined in NZ employment law. This means however that if your business relies heavily on foreign workers and you have a record of non compliance, you may not be able to gain accreditation to recruit foreign workers with INZ already showing that it is cracking down on these employers.

The new regime promises to streamline application and renewal processes that should drive down costs to the employer. The changes to the policies and implementation of the new regime will come into full effect in 2021 however certain policy changes are being implemented in stages. Businesses will continue to operate on the current system until 2021 while increases in remuneration thresholds came into force in February 2020.

The key changes to come into effect include (non exhaustively):

  • Changing the employer accreditation scheme by introducing an ‘employer led’ visa application process. This will include a 3 step process:
  • that the employer is accredited (called the ‘employer gateway’);
  • that the job is paid in line with NZ market rate as set by INZ (called the ‘job gateway’); and
  • that NZ workers are not available and that the worker meets standards of character, health and skill requirements (called the ‘worker gateway’).
  • Replacing 6 of the current work visa categories with one visa called the Temporary Work Visa. These apply only to new visas and not existing visa holders once the scheme comes into effect. The visa categories being replaced are:
  • Essential Skills Work Visa;
  • Essential Skills Work Visa – Approval in Principal;
  • Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa;
  • Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa;
  • Silver Fern Job Search Visa; and
  • Silver Fern Practical Experience Visa.
  • Replacing the current ‘ANZSCO’ skill classification system by simpler remuneration thresholds for highly skilled and essential skilled roles and removing labour market testing in rural regions.
  • Introducing Sector Agreements that will stipulate visa conditions and workplace requirements that must be met for recruiting foreign workers for specified occupations whereby employers will be required to comply with the Sector Agreement.  These are currently being negotiated by MBIE and sector groups and unions.

If you recruit foreign workers as part of your business, you will be required to be accredited by 2021 if you are not already accredited to be able to bring in overseas workers on the new Temporary Work Visa.

If you require any advice or further information on Accreditation or the matters dealt with in this publication please contact:

Cornelius Botha
09 353 6677

The information contained in this publication is intended as a guide only.  It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.  Professional advice should be sought before applying any of the information to particular circumstances.  While every reasonable care has been taken in the preparation of this publication, Farry and Co. does not accept liability for any errors it may contain. 

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