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Immigration Rebalance and How It Affects Employers

The NZ Government’s Immigration rebalance reform includes many employment changes. Read more about employer accreditation and its rebalance affects employers.
October 4, 2022
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5
 min read
Immigration Rebalance and How It Affects Employers

The Government is implementing changes to the NZ immigration system as part of the rebalancing process of filling skill shortages and boosting the economy after the pandemic's travel restrictions and NZ's closed borders.

New Zealand's labour shortage has been around for some time. However, the problem has compounded for employers since Covid-19 hit. Worker shortages continue to impact all aspects, from the public sector shortage of teachers and healthcare workers to the private sector lacking employees skilled in engineering, construction and hospitality, to name but a few.

With record lows in NZ employment, overseas workers are in high demand by NZ employers. But to promote job vacancies overseas, employers need to be accredited within this new process. 

Employer accreditation is a set of rules that require employers to take more responsibility when hiring migrant workers – they must provide support and training on living and working in New Zealand to their migrant employees and provide supporting evidence of this process to Immigration NZ.

What Is Immigration Rebalance?

The Government is rebalancing New Zealand's immigration system by implementing a shift in the future migrant workforce to increase New Zealand business productivity and rebalance the skills gap to support our economy's growth.

The rebalance is designed to make it easier to attract and employ skilled migrants. It also supports sectors in implementing sustainable employment processes.

The rebalance ensures New Zealand is an attractive destination for highly skilled workers in global shortage. It also fast-tracks pathways to residence for these migrants and simplifies the application process.

New Zealand Immigration Rebalance Changes

The immigration rebalance introduces three new residence categories that will make it easier for employers to hire migrants for specified high-skilled, hard-to-fill occupations.

As part of New Zealand's plan to rebalance the immigration system, the Government has introduced new pathways to residence and work visa options relevant to employers:

  • The "fast-tracked - straight to residence" provides residency for highly-skilled people in global-demand professions. These are assessed before arriving in New Zealand after securing a relevant job offer. This path relates to the Green List occupations and opened for applications on 5 September 2022.
  • The "Work to residence" visa gives residency to people from certain professions on the Green List who work in New Zealand for two years. This path also relates to the Green List occupations and requires people to have worked for 24 months and opened for applications on 29 September 2022.
  • The "Highly paid - twice the median wage" was recently announced and will provide residency for people under 55 who have worked for two years or more in New Zealand, earning 2x the median wage. This resident visa is for people who have worked for 24 months earning twice the median wage and opens for applications on 29 September 2022.

The "Work to residence" and "Highly paid" pathways require workers to be on an Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV NZ), which is a visa offering NZ working rights for some professions if migrants meet a certain threshold.

Grow a productive economy

The Government's immigration rebalance aims to grow the New Zealand economy's productivity and improve business resilience by:

  • Reducing pressure on infrastructure and housing
  • Supporting economic growth
  • Shifting to a higher skill mix of migrant workers
  • Reducing the reliance on low-wage and low-skilled migrant workers
  • Encouraging employers to offer more competitive wages 
  • Helping employers to hire and train more New Zealanders

Create more value

The Government's immigration rebalance strategy aims to increase New Zealand's productivity and value by:

  • Advocating for businesses to increase their investment in new business models and labour-saving technology, where appropriate
  • Encouraging businesses to invest more in worker training, upskilling, and career development
  • Supporting upfront investments that will pay dividends in the future

The Importance of Immigration Rebalance 

The changes the Government has implemented will be a step forward to ensure New Zealand employers provide a better working environment for their workers. It aims to reduce exploitation and help to improve migrant workers working conditions and their integration into the New Zealand way of life. 

The Green List makes it easier for employers to attract globally in-demand workers to New Zealand, but it is not the only pathway. Employers can still attract skilled migrants through a pathway to residence under the Skilled Migrant Category.

Will the Immigration Rebalance Impact My Workforce?

As part of the rebalance, the Government has introduced sector agreements to provide limited median wage exemptions for hiring migrant workers on an Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV). This is based on certain occupations and sectors, exchanged for ongoing improvements. 

The immigration rebalance may have different impacts depending on the skill of your workforce.

Lower-Skilled Migrant Workers

There are potential repercussions for employer workforces consisting mainly of lower-skilled migrants. 

The sector agreements allow sectors that traditionally rely on lower-skilled and lower-paid migrant workers some time to make changes. 

Lower-skilled sectors need to use the time to increase the attraction and retention of domestic workers, increase efforts to retain and upskill New Zealanders, and invest in technology and new business models where appropriate. 

The rebalance aims to help distinguish higher-skilled occupations from lower-skilled occupations – the AEWV visa determines higher-skilled jobs, and the median wage determines lower-skilled and lower-paid jobs. 

It may seem like there will be fewer employment opportunities for lower-skilled migrant workers in the future. However, employers can still hire migrants for some lower-skilled roles using more appropriate visa types like a working holiday visa, student visa, or post-study work visa.

Higher-Skilled Migrant Workers

The immigration rebalance will help reduce the pressure on social services and infrastructure by ensuring that only migrants who contribute positively to New Zealand society stay in the country. Part of the immigration rebalance changes is the list of skills and professions in demand in New Zealand.

The Green List has a limited number of highly-skilled roles in demand in New Zealand. It makes it easier for employers to hire and attract migrants for specified high-skilled, hard-to-fill occupations. Highly-skilled professions on the Green List have more working and living rights opportunities in New Zealand.

The Green List is narrow and can be confusing for your migrant workforce. One thing to be aware of for migrants is that they will not be eligible if their qualifications don't exactly match the comparable New Zealand qualification standard for an occupation and/or the job description requirements.

As an employer, ensure your job description is closely aligned to meet the description of the role that INZ uses. If it doesn't, the applicant may not meet INZ's job description of your vacancy and can't be hired.

Green List Occupations

The jobs on the Green List are roles that attract migrants by guaranteeing residence pathways for eligible people. While some professions are a direct pathway to residence, others require two years or longer before applying.

The Green List occupations must meet Immigration NZ's registration, qualification and experience requirements. Eligible migrants have been able to come to New Zealand on a work visa since 4 July 2022. Those eligible can now also apply for residence from September 2022. More conditions about work visas for migrants can be found on our NZ work visa nz page here.

Accredited Employer Work Visa

Employers must be accredited to employ migrant workers. Here's what the employer accreditation changes mean for hiring migrants under the immigration rebalance.

Employers still need to do a labour market test for most roles but not for every migrant. Under the new system, employers need to provide as much information as possible. Some employers can also use their existing recruitment processes to meet the job check criteria to prove that no New Zealanders are available to fill their vacancies.

Employers no longer need to provide proof of advertising for green list occupations when progressing an accredited employer work visa job check application.

The application process is entirely online. Immigration NZ uses public information that is readily available to save businesses time and speed up the process.

Get Expert Immigration Advice

If you want to learn more about NZ's immigration rebalance and how it may impact you and your workforce, get in touch with Malcolm Pacific Immigration.

Our team of experienced licensed immigration advisers provide expert advice on all parts of the immigration process, including work visas and employer accreditation.

We help you navigate the rebalance changes and ensure you take full advantage of the opportunities it presents. 

Get in touch with us today!

Get started with a FREE consultation today

Our highly experienced licensed Immigration team will take away the stress and worry of navigating the complicated world of New Zealand Immigration. All you need to do is get in touch. Our team is on standby, ready to help.

Get started with a FREE consultation today

Our highly experienced licensed Immigration team will take away the stress and worry of navigating the complicated world of New Zealand Immigration. All you need to do is get in touch. Our employer team is on standby, ready to help.

Latest Updates

Our team keep ahead of all the latest immigration developments and post updates regularly. Stay up to date by signing up to our newsletter and get these updates directly to your inbox.

Our team keep ahead of all the latest employment and immigration law developments and post updates regularly. Stay up to date by signing up to our newsletter and get these updates directly to your inbox.

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Update

Migrant Worker Residence

Today the government announced a pathway to residence for migrant workers who are living and working in New Zealand. Applications open on 1 December 2021 for the first wave who are eligible to apply. The second wave can apply from 1 March 2022. The deadline to lodge an application is 31 July 2022 or else they will miss out on this one off opportunity.

July 8, 2022
Update

Skilled Migrants Opportunity

Today the government announced a pathway to residence for people living and working in New Zealand. Applications open on 1 December 2021 for the first wave eligible to apply. The second wave can apply from 1 March 2022. The deadline to lodge an application is 31 July 2022 or else you miss the boat.

July 8, 2022
Update

New Employer Accreditation Process

The government has moved the introduction of the new employer accreditation process across to mid-2022. At the same time, the Minister of Immigration announced new work visa rules for migrant workers who are already in New Zealand and working full time.

July 8, 2022
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

The government has increased the median wage to $27 per hour from 19 July. Any Skilled Migrant residence application lodged after this date will need to include a skilled job offer that pays at least $27 per hour. For some lower-skilled occupations, the minimum pay rate increases to $40.50 per hour.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 19 July 2021

  • The median wage used to assess Essential Skills Work Visa applications increases from $25.50 per hour to $27 per hour.
  • Applicants paid below the median wage may be granted a work visa for up to 24 months. The usual 6-month visa validity restriction is suspended until mid-2022.
  • In certain cases, the labour market test is waived and in some cases, it will still apply.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 30 June 2021

  • Employer Accreditation and Approval in Principle applications are now closed.
  • No new Employer Accreditation applications (including renewals) will be accepted until the new process goes live in mid-2022.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

Employer Accreditation Becomes Mandatory

Employers of migrant workers must become accredited from 1 November 2021 before work visa applications can be processed. Most employers are not accredited. Those that are accredited will have to roll into the new system when it goes live in late September.

July 8, 2022
Update

Work Visa Rules

From mid-2020 (delayed)

  • Government to negotiate and introduce Industry Sector agreements setting minimum conditions for industries that heavily rely on overseas workers. Sectors include; residential care, meat processing, dairy, forestry, road freight transport, tourism, and hospitality. Construction, horticulture, and viticulture may also be included.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

Skilled occupation "Dairy Cattle Farmer" spilt into three occupations. New occupations are: "Dairy Farm Manager", "Assistant Dairy Farm Manager" and "Dairy Herd Manager". Each sit at different skill levels, therefore, the award of points will depend on pay rates, job tasks and other requirements.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 15 February 2021

  • Dairy Cattle Farmer job offers are now assessed by three new occupation descriptions: Dairy Farm Manager, Assistant Dairy Farm Manager and Dairy Herd Manager. Pay rates and job tasks will determine how long a work visa is valid. Take advice.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

The government has deferred the fortnightly selection of Expressions of Interest from the Skilled Migrant pool for six months (to be reviewed in April 2021). Invitations to Apply for Residence remain suspended. The last selection from the Skilled Migrant pool took place on 18/03/2020.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 7 October 2020

  • Introduction of "Oversupply" and "Undersupply" occupation lists used to assess Essential Skills Work Visa applications when a job offer pays less than the median wage.
  • Employers offering jobs to migrant workers where an occupation is on the "Oversupply" list will not get Skill Match reports issued by Work & Income. Solid evidence of genuine attempts to find a local to fill the job will be critical for approval.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

The government added four new occupations that are now regarded as skilled employment and may qualify for job offer points under the Skilled Migrant Category. These are:

Aged or disabled carer, Bicycle mechanic, Driller and Nursing Support worker.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 27 July 2020

  • Essential Skills work visa applications are now assessed based on the current median wage (NZD $25.50 or more per hour.).
  • Job offers paying below the median wage require employers to pass the labour market test* and secure a Skills Match Reports from WINZ (work visas granted for a maximum of 6 months).

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

Anyone invited by Immigration NZ to apply for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category where their invitation is dated between 1 November 2019 and 15 April 2020 (inclusive) has now been granted an additional six months to lodge their residence application.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 27 May 2020​

  • Regional Skill Shortage List goes live. 15 regions around New Zealand list occupations reflecting local skill shortages in each region. The labour market test is not mandatory provided the job offer matches the occupation and region plus the visa applicant has qualifications and/or work experience set out on the list.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

The government has deferred the fortnightly selection of Expressions of Interest from the Skilled Migrant pool. This means Invitations to Apply for Residence are also suspended. Malcolm Pacific Immigration does not anticipate selections to resume until after the general election held on 17 October 2020.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

Immigration NZ is now prioritising Skilled Migrant Residence applications where the main (principal) applicant meets the criteria:

  • Has employment paying double the median wage which is currently NZD $51 per hour OR NZD $106,800 per annum; OR Has New Zealand occupational registration and is required to hold valid registration to lawfully carry out their job.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 24 February 2020

  • Wage or salary thresholds increase for Essential Skills Work Visas applications lodged on or after 24/02/2020 (labour market tested; read more here).
  • Higher Skilled employment increases to $38.25 or more per hour ($79,560 per annum*)
  • Mid Skilled Employment increases to $21.68 or more per hour ($45,094 per annum*)

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 7 October 2019

  • Base salary to qualify for a Work to Residence Visa (WTR) supported by an accredited employer increases from $55,000 per annum to $79,560 per annum (or $38.25 per hour).
  • Pay rates for WTR visas are now reviewed annually.
  • Work visa applicants paid less than $79,560 per annum by accredited employers need to apply under other work visa categories.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

The government recently added more occupations that are now to be regarded as skilled employment and may qualify for job offer points under the Skilled Migrant Category. In order to qualify for points, the job must be paying at least the current median wage (or higher for certain occupations) at the time the residence application is lodged.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 1 November 2021

  • Work to Residence Visa (Accredited Employer and Long Term Skill Shortage) applications close.
  • Applications lodged on or before 31 October 2021 will be processed under current visa settings.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

Mandatory Vaccination Required for Travel

From 1 November 2021 anyone who is not a NZ citizen must be fully vaccinated (unless exempt) before travelling to New Zealand. Fully vaccinated means your last dose of vaccine was given at least 14 days before travelling and it was an approved vaccine.

July 8, 2022
Update

Employer Accreditation

Applications for employer accreditation closed at the end of June 2021. Applications lodged before the closure date are still being processed. New applications for accreditation open on 9 May 2022. The process will be quite different to what employers have experienced in the past. Businesses will need to meet minimum standards.

July 26, 2022
Update

2021 Resident Visa

Wednesday, 1 December is fast approaching and it is estimated that around 16,000 individuals and families can apply in the first wave for the 2021 Resident Visa opening next month. It is exciting for the thousands of people who have been waiting patiently to become residents that finally the finish line is in sight.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

2021 Resident Visa

The first wave of applicants can apply from 1 December 2021. Around 16,000 applications are expected in this first wave. The second wave opens on 1 March 2022. In total, the government expects approximately 110,000 applications that will include about 165,000 people.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

2021 Resident Visa

The second group of workers who can apply online for the 2021 Resident Visa that opens on 1 March 2022 are those who hold an eligible work visa and either meet "Settled", "Skilled" or "Scarce" as set out above. In total Immigration NZ estimate around 110,000 people will qualify to apply for this visa.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

2021 Resident Visa

The first group of workers who can apply online for the 2021 Resident Visa that opens on 1 December 2021 are those that on 29/09/2021:

  • Had lodged a residence application under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) or Residence from Work category; OR Had lodged an SMC Expression of Interest (EOI) in the SMC pool that included at least one dependent child aged 17 or above.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

2021 Resident Visa

Is this the only requirement to qualify for residence? No. In addition to the eligible work visa criteria workers also need to be regarded as one of the following:

  1. Settled.
  2. Skilled.
  3. Scarce.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

2021 Resident Visa

People who were lawfully in NZ (or in Australia when the travel bubble closed between April and July 2021) on 29/09/2021 need to meet the visa eligibility criteria:

  • Workers in NZ who held an eligible work visa on or before 29/9/2021 and on the day they apply for residence; OR Applied for an eligible work visa on or before 29/9/2021 and the work visa application is subsequently approved and still hold an eligible work visa on the day they apply for residence.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

2021 Resident Visa

The government has introduced a limited pathway to residence for people who are already living and working in New Zealand. Applications open on 1 December 2021 for the first wave of people eligible to apply. The second wave opens on 1 March 2022. The deadline to apply for the 2021 Resident Visa is 31 July 2022.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

Critical Purpose Visitor Visas

A small number of critical health workers (taking up jobs for six months or longer) or specialist workers (taking up jobs that are for longer than six months) who were granted border exemptions may also have eligibility for the 2021 Resident Visa. They will need to have arrived in NZ and lodge a 2021 Resident Visa application.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
Update

Policy Decision Key Dates in 2022

  • July 4. Applications open for the new Accredited Employer Work Visa.
  • July 31. Applications for the 2021 Resident Visa close.
  • August. Skilled Migrant Residence category scheduled to reopen.
  • August. A new pathway to residence for people earning 200% or more of the median wage.

*Excludes high-risk countries.

July 8, 2022
Update

Policy Decision Key Dates in 2022

  • February 13. Fully vaccinated Kiwis plus certain other travellers entering NZ from the rest of the world* can skip MIQ.
  • April 30. The border starts a phased reopen to fully vaccinated foreign nationals.
  • April 30. The Productivity Commission reports back to the government on immigration settings.
  • May 9. Applications open for mandatory Employer Accreditation.

*Excludes high-risk countries.

July 8, 2022
Update

Work Visa Categories Closing

The work visa categories set to close are:

  • Essential Skills Work Visa
  • Essential Skills Work Visa – approval in principle
  • Work to Residence (Talent – Accredited Employer)
  • Work to Residence (Long Term Skills Shortage)
  • Silver Fern Job Search Work Visa (closed October 2019)
  • Silver Fern Practical Experience Work Visa.
July 8, 2022
Update

The Green List

From September 2022 people holding job offers in a small number of occupations may apply for residence. Some occupations are a direct pathway to residence and others require a period of two years or longer before applying.

There are qualification and/or occupational registration requirements to meet. Establishing if an overseas qualification matches the NZ equivalent qualification before applying is paramount for success.

Read more here.

July 12, 2022
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