October 4, 2022

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.
Immigration Rebalance and How It Affects Employers
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!

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