Work Visa rules get shake-up.

The government has made sweeping changes to work visa rules. These impact employers and migrant workers (those either holding a current work visa or applying for a new work visa).


A summary of the changes are:


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.

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 mid – 2020


  • Jobs classified into lower or higher paid based on New Zealand median wage. Skills assessment removed.

  • Lower paid jobs issued maximum 12 month work visa and allowed to bring family to New Zealand. Maximum time spent working in New Zealand restricted to 3 years (must depart for 12 months before applying to return to New Zealand).  

  • Higher paid jobs issued work visa valid for up to 3 years.

  • Government to negotiate and introduce Industry Sector agreements setting minimum conditions for industries that rely heavily 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 2021


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

  • Six work visa categories rolled into one.

  • New set of rules for the Labour Market Check (ensuring no New Zealander is available to fill a job) based around pay rates and whether the job is based in a major city or region.



Are you affected?




If your business is not accredited then 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 Rebecca Hassold.


Work visa holders


Already hold a work visa ? You do not need not 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


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
Wellesley Street
Auckland 1141

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

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