April 7, 2024

Major changes just announced to work visa policy

Major changes just announced to work visa policy
Major changes just announced to work visa policy

The government today announced sweeping changes to work visa rules that impact employers and migrant workers in low skilled jobs. Changes include how long a migrant worker can spend working in New Zealand, minimum English language standard, a work experience and qualification requirement and a higher threshold for employers to show that they have tried to fill vacancies with New Zealanders.

From 7 April 2024 occupations for work visas will be closely assessed against a classification of occupations called "ANZSCO" (Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations). ANZSCO 1, 2 and 3 occupations are normally management, professional, technical or trade roles (such as doctors, chief executives or carpenters). ANZSCO 4 and 5 occupations are usually Community or Personal Service workers or Clerical and/or Administrative workers (examples are secretaries, cleaners or labourers).

ANZSCO 1, 2 and 3 occupations are largely unaffected by todays announcement. However, ANZSCO occupations 4 and 5 are significantly affected by these changes.

Maximum time working in NZ

A migrant worker can spend up to 5 years working in New Zealand provided they work in an ANZSCO 1, 2 or 3 occupation, or work in an occupation on the Green List, or are included in the Transport Sector Work to Residence list, or are paid at or above 1.5 times the median wage (currently $47.71 an hour).

A migrant worker in an ANZSCO 4 or 5 occupation may also spend up to 5 years working in New Zealand provided they applied for their first Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) between 21 June 2023 and 6 April 2024 and were paid at or above the median wage of $29.66 an hour.

A migrant worker in an ANZSCO 4 or 5 occupation who applied for an AEWV on or before 20 June 2023 can now only stay working in NZ for a maximum of 3 years.

There have been over 113,000 AEWVs issued to date. Many migrant workers will have to leave NZ from 2025 onwards when AEWVs first issued in 2022 onwards start to expire.

English language requirement

From 7 April 2024 people applying for AEWVs to work in ANZSCO 4 or 5 occupations must prove they meet an English language standard. In some cases this will be easy and for others passing an English test may be required.

Citizens of Canada, the Republic of Ireland, the UK or USA who have worked or studied for 5 years or more in one of these 4 countries (or Australia or New Zealand) will not need to sit an English test. Likewise a qualification at Level 7 (requiring 2 or more years of study) or a Level 8 qualification (requiring 1 year or more of study) completed in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, the UK or USA will avoid an English test.

For everyone else they will need to sit and pass an English test. There are several tests that are acceptable for an AEWV but the most commonly one known is IELTS with an overall score of 4 or more to reach the standard of English required.

Work experience and qualification requirement

From 7 April 2024 all AEWV applicants will need to prove they are suitably qualified or experienced to do the job they have been offered in NZ. This includes either three years relevant work experience or a relevant qualification assessed as comparable to a Level 4 or higher NZ qualification. There are some exceptions for occupations on the Green List or when a job is paid at twice the median wage.

New set of requirements for employers

From 7 April 2024 employers must lodge vacancies with Work and Income for ANZSCO 4 and 5 jobs plus advertise the job nationally. They will need to satisfy Immigration NZ (INZ) they could not find kiwis to fill the vacancy.

Employers will need to take reasonable steps to ensure migrant workers are suitably qualified and experienced to do the job offered.

Accredited Employers will need to notify INZ within 10 working days when a migrant worker holding an AEWV leaves their employment.

From 14 April 2024 there are a new set of penalties for employers including instant fines ($1,000 or more), suspension of recruiting more migrant workers, suspension or cancelation of accreditation if they breach any of the accredited employer rules. Breaches include not notifying INZ when an AEWV holder leaves their employment, employing a person who has no work rights or are an overstayer.

Franchise accreditation will be disestablished in late 2024. Employers who hold franchise accreditation can then apply for standard, or high volume or triangular accreditation.

Certain occupations will not be included in the Construction and Infrastructure Sector Agreement

The decision by the former government to include 7 new roles into this agreement will not progress. This means work visas can not be secured for people wanting to work in these roles when the pay rate is below the median wage. Affected occupations are:

  • Driller’s Assistant
  • Earthmoving Labourer
  • Earthmoving Plant Operator general
  • Linemarker
  • Machine Operators not elsewhere classified
  • Mechanic’s Assistant
  • Road Traffic Controller

Anyone in your team who has already applied for an AEWV or AEWV extension

Applications already lodged with INZ and under process are not affected by these changes.

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