NEW ZEALAND – Changes to the Essential Skills Work Visas Will Affect Visa Duration and Dependent Privileges
Effective 28 August 2017, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is introducing remuneration bands for work visas. The remuneration bands will affect how long applicants can stay and whether their families can stay too.
What is the current situation?
If a job is ranked at Level 4 or 5 on the ANZSCO, then a work visa is granted for 12 months. However, the work visa can continually be renewed, every 12 months. If the job matches with an occupation that is ranked at Level 1, 2 or 3 on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) then a work visa is granted for at least three years. The work visa can continually be renewed. Essential skills visa holders are currently able to obtain visas for their partners and dependent children, as long as their visa is for more than six months. The partners and children can stay in New Zealand, as long as the main applicant.
How will the remuneration bands affect work visa duration?
From 28 August 2017, essential skills visa applicants earning less than NZD 19.97 per hour (NZD 41,538 per annum) will only be eligible for a 12-month work visa. This is regardless of the skill level of the job. Further, after three work visas (three years in New Zealand), these applicants must leave New Zealand for at least 12 months. Applicants earning between NZD 19.97 and NZD 35.24 per hour and in ANZSCO Level 4 and 5 jobs will also only be able to obtain 12-month work visas. Also, after three years, these applicant must also leave New Zealand for at least 12 months. Applicants earning between NZD 19.97 and NZD 35.24 per hour and in ANZSCO Level 1, 2 or 3 jobs will still be able to obtain three-year work visas. They will be able to continue to renew the visas and will not have to leave New Zealand for 12 months, every three years. An applicant earning more than NZD 35.24 per hour will be able to obtain a five-year work visa, regardless of the ANZSCO level of his or her job.
What is changing for partners and children?
Essential skills visa applicants earning less than NZD 19.97 per hour (NZD 41,538 per annum), or earning between NZD 19.97 and NZD 35.24 per hour and in ANZSCO Level 4 and 5 jobs, will not be able to support a partner or dependent children to stay in New Zealand.
How will the changes affect existing work visa holders?
When work visa holders earning less than NZD 19.97 per hour, and/or working in ANZSCO Level 4 or 5 jobs, apply for their next work visa, it will only be granted for 12 months. After three of these visas, the employees will have to leave New Zealand for at least 12 months.
However, the good news is that the three years that these employees can spend in New Zealand will start with their next visa application.
INZ is expected to put in place transitional arrangements which may allow an employee’s partner and children to remain in New Zealand as long as the employee is lawfully in New Zealand. This should mean that partners and children can stay here for three years, from the next visa application.
However, unless the employee has moved into a job paying more than NZD 19.97 per hour and at ANZSCO Level 1, 2 or 3, the partner and children will have to leave New Zealand after three years.
If the employer wants to continue the employment beyond the three years, they need to consider career development pathways to allow the employee to progress to earning more than NZD 19.97 per hour and move into an ANZSCO Level 1,2 or 3 job.
It is important to remember that to renew an employee's essential skills work visa, an employer must have made a genuine attempt to find a New Zealand national for the job, and must demonstrate that no suitable or readily trainable New Zealanders applied. If a job is at ANZSCO level 4 or 5, the vacancy must be listed with Work and Income.
ANZSCO is a system managed by the Australian and New Zealand governments. It classifies and ranks jobs.
For example, an engineer is ranked as having an ANZSCO Level 1 job. This means that an engineer needs at least 5 years of work experience or a degree to be able to get a work visa, which would then be valid for either three or five years.
A builder’s labourer is ranked as having an ANZSCO Level 5 job. This means that a labourer only has to prove he or she has finished secondary education and perhaps some on-the-job training to be able to get a work visa. However, a builder’s labourer will only get a work visa for 12 months, each time he or she applies.
Employers of work visa holders, or prospective applicants, earning less than NZD 19.97 per hour and/or working in ANZSCO Level 4 or 5 should consult an immigration specialist for advice on how to proceed. Note that substantial changes to the Skilled Migrant Category are also expected to take effect on 28 August 2017. See our previous alert here.