NEW ZEALAND – Government Proposes Overhaul of Employer-Supported Work Visas
The New Zealand government has proposed significant changes to the employer-assisted work visa framework which, if implemented, will affect all New Zealand employers supporting work visa applications and all individuals applying for employer-supported work visas.
Most of the changes are set to be implemented from August 2019, after public consultation. Regional Skill Shortage Lists may be introduced as early as April 2019.
What are the proposed changes?
A “gateway framework” is set to replace all employer-supported work visa categories. Three stages will have to be passed before a work visa can be approved:
1. Employer check
This involves mandatory accreditation or all employers seeking to support work visa applications.
Different categories of accreditation are proposed, including standard accreditation, labour hire accreditation and premium accreditation.
2. Job check
To test the labour market, the following are proposed:
Regional skill shortage lists; Industry sector agreements (e.g. for hospitality); No labour market testing for salaries of at least NZD 101,046; A salary threshold increase from NZD 55,000 to NZD 78,000 for employers with premium accreditation looking to support employees for ‘work to residence’ visas.
3. Individual check
This final stage will assess the identity, character, health, qualifications and experience of the work visa applicant.
Regional Skill Shortage Lists
These will be introduced to replace the current Essential Skills in Demand lists, acknowledging that labour market conditions vary by region.
The minimum hourly rate for mid-skilled workers is set to increase from NZD 21.25 to NZD 24.29, resulting in many workers being reclassified as ‘low-skilled’.
Feedback is being sought on 'genuine and significant' anomalies in the Australia and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO). This is unlikely to result in a complete overhaul of the ANZSCO classification framework, but potentially a targeted review of the most problematic job codes.
Feedback is being sought on the existing 'stand down period' and also the restrictions on bringing dependents, for 'low-skilled" workers.
Employers who may be affected are encouraged to submit feedback during the public consultation period, with assistance from their immigration specialist.