Immigration Support for the Tourism & Hospitality Industry
The Government has announced immigration changes to support New Zealand's tourism and hospitality industry labour shortage. Learn more about INZ's new changes.
November 2, 2022
New Zealand's labour shortage isn't a new issue. However, it has worsened for employers and businesses in the tourism and hospitality industry due to the impact of Covid-19.
The Government has made changes to rebalance the NZ immigration system. These changes aim to fill skill shortages after the pandemic led to NZ's closed borders.
The Government wants to help the New Zealand immigration system align with a national goal of increasing NZ business productivity and supporting economic growth. However, at the same time, NZ's hospitality and tourism industries are key to why so many overseas travellers choose New Zealand as a top destination, coming in as the 3rd most popular destination.*
What Is Happening In the New Zealand Labour Market?
The AEWV scheme requires employers to pay a median wage of NZ$27.76 for migrant workers to qualify for an NZ working visa. The median wage will increase to NZ$29.66 in April 2023.
For an interim period, the Government has also implemented sector agreements to help employers fill skill gaps. These agreements allow some exemptions to the median wage requirements for hiring migrant workers under the AEWV NZ guidelines for specific occupations and sectors. This allows employers in the specific sectors an extension of time in order to make changes.
How Has the Rebalance Affected NZ Tourism & Hospitality?
Under the AEWV scheme, all employers, including those in the tourism and hospitality industry, had to meet all of INZ's requirements. However, the hospitality and tourism industry criticised this policy and claimed that the new thresholds were unrealistic.
Under the new AEWV Scheme, employers must prove they:
Have been operating their business for at least 12 months.
Are registered with Inland Revenue and operating in NZ
Have a good record with INZ.
Have a complete employment agreement that meets employment standards.
Can pay migrant workers the salary you have offered them.
Have systems that help ensure migrant employees comply with their visa terms.
That there is no available New Zealand resident/citizen.
For the migrant workers to qualify for the AEWV, they also had to meet INZ's requirements:
Be paid at least the median wage of NZ$27.76 per hour.
Have a clean criminal history.
Meet the health requirements.
Have the required job qualifications and experience.
The Response From the Tourism & Hospitality Industry
Businesses across the country stated that it wasn't within their budgets and couldn't afford to employ workers at almost NZ$28 an hour for an entry-level position. This is a valid issue for New Zealand, not just businesses, as our economy relies widely on what tourism and hospitality produce.
Tourism plays a crucial role in New Zealand's economy. Before Covid-19, tourism generated a direct contribution of NZ$16.4 billion to the GDP and a further indirect contribution of NZ$11.3 billion to New Zealand’s total GDP annually. It's the country's biggest export industry in terms of foreign exchange earnings and accounts for approximately 20% of total exports.**It also employs one in seven New Zealanders.
The hospitality industry supports tourism and is essential for New Zealand's economic growth. While many businesses were closed or greatly restricted over the Covid-19 lockdowns, hospitality typically generated NZ$6.8 billion to GDP annually and NZ$14.6 billion through supplier purchases and staff expenditures.***
The Impact on the Tourism & Hospitality Industry
For months, restaurants have been forced to turn away patrons due to staff shortages. Unfortunately, this has also been the case for other hospitality establishments and parts of the tourism industry.
Staffing shortages have resulted in restaurants and hotels closing rooms, cutting menus and limiting occupancy to cope. Sauna Auckland The limited amount of staff has also put pressure on the existing staff to extend their hours.
The national worker shortage within the tourism and hospitality industry has already seen a massive increase in wait times. Opening hours have been limited, along with declining service quality due to overworked staff.
Overall, there are just not enough New Zealanders to fill the tourism and hospitality worker gap.
What Is the Future Of Tourism & Hospitality In NZ?
New Zealand's hospitality industry is entering its busiest time of the year, with summer approaching fast. It is estimated that this industry needs another 30,000 workers to join and for businesses to cope with the summer season.
"As the world recovers from COVID-19, labour shortages continue to be a persistent ongoing global symptom," Immigration Minister Michael Wood stated.
The build-up to summer and the staff shortage complications NZ has already faced have contributed to the Government's amendments to the AEWV and Working Holiday Visa rules. They are providing more support to the tourism and hospitality sector.
What Are the Immigration Rules Being Amended?
The new changes act as support to help the industry take practical steps towards New Zealand businesses working more productively and operating with more resilience. However, this support might not last forever but is just a temporary extension to allow the industry more time to transition.
Tourism & Hospitality Median Wage Exemption Extended
The Government initially responded to tourism and hospitality concerns in May 2022 and provided a threshold exemption of NZ$25 per hour until April 2023. However, they have announced that the median wage exception for tourism and hospitality will increase from NZ$25 to NZ$28.18 in April 2023.
The exception will end in April 2024, when roles in tourism and hospitality must be paid at the median wage of NZ$29.66.
Chef Qualification AEWV Requirement Removed
The Government removed the qualification requirement for chefs hired through an AEWV on 18 October 2022. This increases NZ's options and allows the country to recruit chefs without formal qualifications (equivalent to a New Zealand Certificate of Cookery Level) who are top-rated, high-skilled or experienced to come to NZ while labour market conditions are tight.
Seasonal Snow & Adventure Tourism Sector Agreement Announced
Following the threshold exemption, a new 'seasonal snow and adventure tourism' agreement has been announced to help employers find workers under the AEWV guidelines.
This sector's agreement aims to support the seasonal needs of migrant labour below the median wage, with a threshold of NZ$25 an hour, 90% of the median wage. This percentage gradually increases until the agreement ends in 2025.
Working Visa Holiday Changes
In August 2022, the Government announced changes to increase access to working holiday makers, meaning more people can visit and work in New Zealand.
Capped schemes not yet filled had their cap doubled on 8 September 2022 and remain open.
The Government also announced that the closed schemes have specific re-opening dates, as listed below.
Malaysia - 8 September 2022
Uruguay - 13 September 2022
Argentina - 15 September 2022
Chile - 22 September 2022
Taiwan - 29 September 2022
China - 11 October 2022
Hong Kong - 18 October 2022
Brazil - 20 October 2022
Vietnam - 25 October 2022
Mexico - 27 October 2022
Philippines - 1 November 2022
Hungary - 3 November 2022
Slovakia - 8 November 2022
Austria - 10 November 2022
Poland - 15 November 2022
Lithuania - 17 November 2022
Peru - 22 November 2022
Turkey - 24 November 2022
Portugal - 1 December 2022
There are extra places for working visas added (and for schemes that are currently closed, extra places that will be added in the near future) for different working holiday schemes for various countries and territories, as listed below.
New Zealand's work visa conditions can change. Be sure to keep on top of all the latest updates. You can always keep yourself informed about work visas, employer accreditation and Immigration NZ news by subscribing to our newsletter or contacting our experienced immigration advisers.
Malcolm Pacific Immigration Advisers handles all types of immigration applications and provides professional advice for both employers and migrant workers. We can help you through the complicated application process.
*According to Google's search results (as described by NZ Herald)
**Tourism Industry Aotearoa
***Hospitality New Zealand
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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.
January 9, 2023
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.
January 9, 2023
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.
January 9, 2023
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.
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.
January 9, 2023
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
January 9, 2023
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.
January 9, 2023
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
January 9, 2023
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.
January 9, 2023
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.
January 9, 2023
The Green List
In order to address labour shortages in New Zealand's crucial industries the NZ government has implemented a "Green List" of sought-after high-skill occupations. This list offers a prioritised pathway to residency.
There are qualification and/or occupational registration requirements to meet. Occupations are broken down into two tiers:
Tier 1 - direct pathway to residence
Tier 2 - requires a period of two years or longer before applying
The recent additions in May 2023 across many sectors can be found here