Work Visa rules get shake up

The Minister of Immigration has just announced the changes to work visa policy that we signaled were on the way. These new rules will roll out progressively over the next 12 to 18 months

If your business employs migrant workers, this is worth a read to keep up to date on what is happening. Share this information with your team.

The summary of the changes are:

Effective from 7 October 2019

  • Anyone applying for a Work to Residence Visa (WTR) with a job offer from an Accredited Employer must be paid at least $79,560 per annum (or $38.25 per hour) to qualify for this visa. This is an increase from the current minimum salary of $55,000 per annum.

  • The minimum pay rate for a WTR visa will now be reviewed annually (usually in November).

  • Anyone offered a job paying less than $79,560 per annum (or $38.25 per hour) from an Accredited Employer will need to apply under another work visa category (such as Essential Skills where the employer will have to prove no New Zealanders can fill the role).

  • Employers applying for first time Accreditation or to renew will only be issued accreditation that is valid for a maximum period of 24 months.

  • The Silver Fern Work Visa will close permanently.

Anyone already holding a WTR visa or who applied before 7/10/2019 for a WTR visa based on a salary of $55,000 will not be affected and can still apply for residence after 24 months of employment with an accredited employer.

From mid-2020

Changes to the Essential Skills work visa category are:

  • Immigration NZ will assess job offers based on pay rates. Jobs paying less than the median wage (currently $25 per hour) will be categorised “low skilled” and jobs paying more than the median wage will be regarded “high skilled”.

  • Low skilled jobs will be issued a 12 month work visa.

  • High skilled jobs may be issued a work visa valid for up to 3 years.

  • Low skilled work visa holders will be able to bring immediate family to NZ. Partners will be issued a visitor visa (no work rights) and children issued student visas allowing them to go to school as domestic students (if children want to attend tertiary studies payment of international student fees are required).


Job offers will still be subject to labour market testing (proving no New Zealanders can fill the role).

Partners of low skilled workers can apply for a work visa but will require a job offer they are suitably qualified/experience to fill and pass the labour market test.

Low skilled workers (and their families) will be restricted to a maximum stay of 3 years and must leave NZ for 12 months before applying to return.

Anyone already holding an Essential Skills work visa is not affected until renewing a work visa after these new rules are in place in mid 2020.

In 2021

All Employers who wish to recruit workers from overseas or already employ migrant workers will need to become accredited if they are not already.

There will be two types of employer accreditation; one for businesses that recruit a lot of staff from overseas and one for businesses that recruit 5 or less overseas workers.

Labour Hire companies will have a separate set of accreditation rules to meet.

There will be a new set of regional labour market testing rules applying to jobs outside major centers.

The detail of the 2021 rules are being developed. We will keep you posted as more detail rolls out. There will be an impact on all companies that employ migrant workers.

If you have any questions take advice now from Malcolm Pacific Immigration

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