Employer-Assisted Work Visas - Impending Changes in 2019
It appears 2019 may herald some interesting changes to New Zealand’s immigration system, with several categories of visa under review. Likely the most topical will be proposed changes to the employer-assisted work visas, for which the Government recently released a consultation paper outlining various proposals. Designed to address the ongoing balancing act of - providing incentives and support for businesses to employ more New Zealanders, with ensuring access to migrant labour where needed – these changes will undoubtably result in further complexity for employers wishing to fill skill shortages with foreign workers.
The Government has proposed a ‘Gateway Framework’ that will see all employers wanting to hire migrants needing to first become accredited. This employer-led system has 3 distinct components that scrutinize employer and employee in turn.
Firstly, an ‘Employer Gateway’ will focus on the employers:
- Compliance with labour laws
- Workplace / HR practices and procedures
- Commitment to hiring and upskilling New Zealanders
- Financial stability
There are different levels of accreditation under the proposed scheme. ‘Standard’ accreditation will last for 12 months and does not offer a pathway to residence for the migrant worker; ‘Premium’ accreditation will offer a pathway to residence, but, the standards set out above will be subject to greater scrutiny – premium accreditation will be mandatory for all employers that wish to recruit 6 or more migrants per year.
A ‘Job Gateway’ will dictate no labour marketing testing (a process whereby an employer must advertise a role to satisfy Immigration NZ there are no locals to fill it) will be required for jobs above a certain wage threshold or on a regional skill shortage list. Under the current accredited employer settings, the remuneration threshold is $55,000 annually, the intention is to increase this to $78,000.
The final stage of this process is the application which focusses on the migrant. At this point, a range of factors specific to the applicant will be checked i.e. health, character, identity and capability (i.e. training and experience).
In theory, these changes arguably streamline a fragmented system. Our concern however, is that mandatory accreditation adds another level of complexity to a process that is already mired in confusion for many employers.
Clearly, the introduction of these proposals will see an influx of applications from employers, putting increased pressure on a system that is already over-burdened; INZ’s lead times for some work visas have pushed out to 3 months.
With the above in mind, we suggest any employers planning to recruit migrants in the near future, review the standards set out above and make sure these are robust in preparation for upcoming change. We believe it would also be advisable to consider applying for accreditation now under current settings, given the potential for significant back-logs with processing applications.
If you would like to discuss the proposed changes, accreditation, or work visas in general please feel free to contact us.
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