Work Visa rules get shake-up.

The government has made sweeping changes to work visa rules rolling out from October 2019 through to mid 2021. These impact employers and migrant workers (those either holding a current work visa or applying for a new work visa).


The summary of changes are:

From mid-2021


  • Mandatory accreditation for all employers that employ or recruit any overseas workers.

  • New 3 step work visa application process.

  • Six work visa categories rolled into one.


From 7 October 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 (currently NZD 25.50 an hour). 

  • Employers offering jobs to migrant workers where an occupation is on the "Oversupply" list will not get Skill Match reports issued by Work & Income (WINZ). Solid evidence of genuine attempts to find a local to fill the job will be critical for approval. Take advice. 

  • Job offers on the "Undersupply" list will also not get Skills Match reports from WINZ.

  • View these lists at WINZ

  • Expected to be a temporary change. Reviewed early 2021. 



From 27 July 2020


  • Essential Skills work visa applications now assessed based on the current median wage (NZD $25.50 or more per hour. The median wage usually changes every November).

  • Job offers paying below the median wage require employers to pass the labour market test* and secure a Skills Match Reports from WINZ (work visas granted for a maximum of 6 months). Plus, restrictions on supporting family visa applications.

  • Job offers paying above the median wage require employers to pass the labour market test* but no engagement with WINZ is required (work visas granted for a maximum of 3 years). No restrictions on supporting family visa applications.

  • ANZSCO still used as a tool to assess whether visa applicants’ qualifications and/or work experience are a substantial match to the job offer.

  • 5 year work visas no longer issued.


* Labour market test requires an employer to extensively advertise job offers to genuinely prove they were unable to find a suitable NZ citizen/resident before recruiting a migrant worker.



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.

From 27 May 2020

  • 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.

From 24 February 2020


  • Wage or salary thresholds increase for Essential Skills Work Visas applications lodged on or after 24/02/2020 (labour market tested; read more at

  • Higher Skilled employment increases to $38.25 or more per hour ($79,560 per annum*)

  • Mid Skilled Employment increases to $21.68 or more per hour ($45,094 per annum*)

  • Lower Skilled Employment increases to $21.67 or more per hour ($45,074 per annum*)

  • Increases also apply to the Skilled Migrant Category for Expressions of Interest selected on or after 24/02/2020 – contact Malcolm Pacific for more information about the new pay rates

* Salary figures are based on 40 hours work per week


From 7 October 2019


  • Base salary to qualify for a Work to Residence Visa (WTR) supported by an accredited employer increases from $55,000 per annum to $79,560 per annum (or $38.25 per hour).

  • Pay rates for WTR visas now reviewed annually.

  • Work visa applicants paid less than $79,560 per annum by accredited employers need to apply under other work visa categories.

  • Employers can only be accredited for 24 months when applying for the first time or renewing.

  • Silver Fern work visa category closed.



​Are you affected?




If your business is not accredited talk to us about how to become accredited and avoid the queues when these changes roll out. 


Already accredited? Your business does not need to do anything right now.


We are happy to give advice to your HR team or any staff affected by these changes. Call Malcolm Pacific Immigration and ask for Lukas Sousa or send him a message below.


Work visa holders


Already hold a work visa? You do not need do anything until it is time to renew your work visa. Take advice at least 3 months before your work visa expires.


Applying for a new work visa? Take advice now from Malcolm Pacific Immigration.

Free phone 0800 800 612 within New Zealand

or send us a message below.

Thanks for submitting!


Phone: (09) 309 4187
From overseas + 64 9 309 4187

Level 5, 2 Kitchener Street,
Auckland City 1010

(Opposite the Auckland Art Gallery)

Postal Address:

Malcolm Pacific (Auckland) Limited

PO Box 6219
Victoria Street West
Auckland 1142

New Zealand


Phone: (04) 473 9615
From overseas + 64 4 473 9615


Level 2,  276 Lambton Quay,

Wellington 6011

(Above McDonalds)


Postal address:

Malcolm Pacific (Wellington) Limited
PO Box 10046
The Terrace
Wellington 6143
New Zealand