Work Visa rules change


Several changes this month affect those on work visas.

Holders of Employer Assisted Work Visas (with the occupation and employer listed on the visa) who were in New Zealand on 10/07/2020 and their visa expires before 31/12/20 have received an automatic 6 month extension (no need to lodge an application or pay any government fee). Emails confirming the visa extension have been sent. If you did not get yours contact Immigration NZ or Malcolm Pacific Immigration.

This automatic work visa extension does not apply to anyone holding a Specific Purpose or Event Work Visa. Plus any family in New Zealand with worker’s did not get the automatic extension. They need to apply and pay application fees. Normal rules apply to this group.

The 6 month extension is intended to give employers and work visa holders some breathing space. With the labour market changing rapidly and more New Zealanders losing jobs the market needs to be prepared that not all work visas will be extended in the future. If you are concerned take advice now.

From 27 July 2020 applications for Essential Skills (labour market tested) Work Visas are now assessed based on the rate of pay. Immigration NZ use the median wage, currently NZD $25.50 per hour (changes annually; usually in November) to determine the validity date of a work visa and whether an employer needs to deal with Work and Income (WINZ).

Anyone earning below the median wage will receive a visa valid for 6 months only (applies to all applications lodged before 10/01/2022). The maximum stay in New Zealand is 3 years (then a person is required to leave New Zealand for at least 12 months). Each work visa application requires the employer to prove they cannot find a New Zealander (by extensive advertising) and provide a Skills Match Report from WINZ.

Anyone earning above the median wage may be issued a work visa valid for up to 3 years. The employer still needs to satisfy the labour market test by showing they made genuine efforts to find a local before hiring an overseas worker. No engagement with WINZ is required.

Families of temporary workers are also affected. If the work visa holder earns less than the median wage, a partner is issued a visitor visa (no work rights) unless they qualify for a work visa under Essential Skills (i.e. job offer passes the labour market test). Children may still apply for student visas as domestic students (excluding tertiary studies) provided the working parent earns a minimum of $43,323 per annum (subject to change).

Work Visa holders wanting to change employers who are paid below the median wage need to apply for a new work visa and can no longer apply for variation of conditions. This means passing the labour market test again no matter how long is left to run on the current work visa.

It is complex. If visas expire or applications get declined this becomes very difficult to fix. Take advice now.

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