New Zealand: Labour market testing changes to work visa requirements

Last Updated: 6 May 2016
Article by Nicola Appleton

On 11 April, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) changed the documents required for an essential skills work visa application. It is important for employers and employees, especially those working outside of Canterbury, to know about these changes prior to making a work visa application.

What is an essential skills work visa application?
Most work visa applications in New Zealand are essential skills applications.

An essential skills work visa requires an employer to show that there are no New Zealand citizens or residents available or readily trainable for the job. 

The employer has to show that it has made a genuine attempt to advertise the job to New Zealanders.  The employer also has to explain why New Zealand applicants or residents were not suitable or readily trainable.  This information must be provided by the employer in an Employer Supplementary Form.

What are the changes?
From 11 April, employers must work with Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) to fill low-skilled jobs, before supporting a work visa application.

The employer must complete an Employer Supplementary Form and attach a Skills Match Report (SMR) from WINZ.

What are low-skilled jobs?
INZ uses the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) to decide what is a low-skilled job. 

Jobs that are ranked at levels four or five on the ANZSCO are considered to be low-skilled.  This includes labourers, truck drivers, aged carers, industrial spraypainters, waiters, and hotel housekeepers. 

How do I tell if a job is low-skilled?
The only way to do this is to search the job on the ANZSCO website (click here to view).

How does an employer get a Skills Match Report?
The job needs to be listed with WINZ.  The listing must explain what the job involves and what is genuinely required to undertake the job.  It is fine to require a certain level of fitness or that the applicant pass drug testing.

WINZ may send applicants to the employer to consider.  It is important that the employer genuinely considers them.  WINZ will not issue a favourable SMR if it believes that there are suitable or readily trainable New Zealanders who can do the job. 

If WINZ is satisfied that there are no New Zealanders who can do the job, it will issue a SMR confirming details of the vacancy and whether New Zealanders are available to do the job. 

What does the employer do with the SMR?
The employer gives the SMR to the employee at the same time as preparing the Employer Supplementary Form.  The employee then submits the SMR and form with his or her work visa application.

What if I do not get an SMR?
If there is no SMR, and the job is at ANZSCO level four or five, then the employee's work visa application will not be accepted by INZ.  Therefore, if the employee applies just before his or her visa expires, then he or she may become unlawful.

Are there any exceptions?
Yes, if a job is on one of the Skill Shortage lists, then the employer does not need to work with WINZ and obtain a SMR.  The shortage lists can be found on the Immigration New Zealand website - click here.

However, the employee must meet the qualification and work experience requirements on the shortage list.  If he or she does not, and the job is at level four or five on the ANZSCO, then the employer must submit a SMR.

What are the advantages of the changes?
If the employer receives a favourable SMR, then the work visa application should be processed quickly.  This is because INZ does not need to check availability of New Zealanders with WINZ after the application has been submitted.  Also, the employer and employee have a lot more certainty about the likelihood of the application being approved.

What about jobs that are in Canterbury?
The process has not changed for Canterbury.  Instead of working with WINZ, employers need to work with the Canterbury Skills and Employment Hub.  The process is very similar to working with WINZ.

What about jobs that are in Queenstown?
Employers must also work with WINZ if a job is in Queenstown and is level four and five on the ANZSCO.  This is unless the job is on the Queenstown Lakes District occupation exemption list and does not require advertising.  To view the list click here

Do we have to do this for work visa renewals?
The employer must work with WINZ to obtain a SMR, to renew a work visa.  This is even if the employee is already doing the job .  This is because if a New Zealander is now available to do the job, then the employee's work visa cannot be renewed.

In summary, what are the main things to be aware of?
Before applying for an essential skills work visa, it is important to know if a job is at level four or five on the ANZSCO list.  You can check this by going to the ANZSCO website.

If it is, then the employer must work with WINZ to check that there are no New Zealanders who could do the job before an employee applies for a work visa.  If there are not, then WINZ will issue a SMR for the employer to give to the applicant to submit with his or her work visa application.  If there are, then the employee may not be eligible for a work visa.

The only exceptions are for Canterbury jobs, where the employer needs to work with the Canterbury Skills and Employment Hub, or where the job is included in one of the skill shortage lists and the employee meets the experience or qualification requirements on the list.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Nicola Appleton
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