The new work visa rules and what this means for both – employers and employees.

The new work visa rules and what this means for both – employers and employees.

On 13 March 2019, I penned an article that was published in the Law Talk outlining the current policy and proposed changes to Immigration New Zealand’s “Accredited Employer” scheme. This article addressed the confusion and speculation relating to the proposed changes and when they may be implemented. The Government ended speculation yesterday however, when it announced the changes and the timing for implementation. Given this announcement, we thought it would be a good time to briefly re-visit the key changes to the Work Visa framework and what you can expect over the next few months.

Immigration New Zealand will be implementing a number of key changes as part of (what looks like) its 2 year-staged-plan to overhaul the work visa categories. Starting October 2019, the existing employer accreditation scheme and Work to Residence - Talent (Accredited Employers) visa category will change. This means:

  • Employees will no longer be allowed to obtain permanent residence after working for an accredited employer for two years. They will however, still be able to obtain standard residence.
  • Accreditation status will only be granted to an employer for two years (as opposed to 5 years).
  • The minimum salary threshold for a work visa (when working for an accredited employer) will increase from $55,000 per annum to $79,560 per annum.

By mid-2020, the following will be implemented:

  • Sector Agreements : Allowing the government to negotiate agreements with sectors which will include agreeing on a workforce plan and the conditions to be met for recruiting foreign workers for specified key occupations. Identified sectors include construction, horticulture and the dairy and forestry industry.
  • Family sponsorship : Lower-paid migrants will have the ability to bring their families into New Zealand. This is a welcome change for many migrants who (under the current policy), have been working overseas with no avenue to bring in their families on their current incomes.

By 2021 you can expect:

  • The new visa application processes to come into effect in full force – this is said to be an employer-led visa application process which effectively includes replacing the six current temporary work visa categories with one new visa called the “Temporary Work Visa”. The Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme will not be impacted by these changes.

These changes are intended to reduce the exploitation of temporary foreign workers, place emphasis on employing and training more New Zealanders; and ensuring that temporary foreign workers are only recruited for genuine shortages in New Zealand. 

There is no doubt about the fact that the new framework is employer-centred in its approach. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen how this pans out.

Changes are ongoing, therefore, we encourage those who are within the Accredited Employer space i.e. an employer looking to get accredited, an already accredited employer or an individual on a Work to Residence Visa – to have a chat with us to see how this may impact you. You can contact your Immigration Specialists: Mahafrin Variava (Solicitor) on mahafrin.variava@turnerhopkins.co.nz or Tim McSweeney (Senior Associate) on tim@thlaw.com.

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