New Zealand Immigration Update: October 2019

The New Zealand Government has announced significant changes to temporary work visas. This immigration update is intended to give a brief overview of the changes.

Further updates will follow, as the changes roll out.

Key Changes

Introduction of a "gateway framework" by 2021

The "gateway framework" is set to replace all employer-supported work visa categories. It is largely employer-led and will introduce three stages that must be satisfied before a work visa can be approved:

Employer check
This involves mandatory accreditation for all employers seeking to support work visa applications.

Three categories of accreditation will be introduced, including standard accreditation, labour hire accreditation and high volume accreditation, for employers recruiting more than five foreign workers over a 12 month period.

Job check
As the labour market check phase, this will introduce:

  • Regional labour market test rules; or
  • Relevant Industry sector agreement; or
  • No labour market testing for salaries at 200% of the median wage (currently $104,000).

Individual check

The individual check is the final stage before a work visa can be issued, and will assess the identity, character and health of the work visa applicant. It will also look at whether the potential employee is suitably skilled through relevant qualifications and/or work experience.

Work to residence (accredited employer)

The minimum base salary for a work to residence visa will be increased, from $55,000 to $79,560.

  • The option to get a permanent resident visa after two years of holding a work to residence visa, with a salary of more than $90,000 will be removed. Employees will still be able to acquire standard residence but will need to continue living in New Zealand for a further two years to obtain a permanent resident visa.
  • Employer accreditation will be limited to 24 months as this category is phased out, by 2021.

Removing the ANZSCO skill level assessment for Work Visas

  • Jobs will instead be classified as "low" or "high" paid. This will be based on whether the hourly rate is above or below the median wage (currently $25).
  • Pay rate together with "Labour Market Region" will determine the length of visa issued.
  • To be introduced, in mid-2020

*ANZSCO will be retained for Skilled Migrant Residence Visa assessment

**ANZSCO will still be used to ensure that the rate of pay is not less than market rate and the visa applicant is suitably qualified

Introduction of sector agreements.

To be negotiated with sectors who employ high numbers of foreign workers, in an attempt to reduce reliance on migrant labour.

Sectors to be targeted include:

  • Residential care
  • Meat processing
  • Dairy
  • Forestry
  • Tourism and hospitality
  • Road Freight Transport

Residential care and meat processing agreements are to be introduced first, in mid-2020.

Removing dependent visa restrictions for low paid workers

Provided the minimum income threshold is met, low paid workers can:

  • Support a partner for a visitor (not work) visa; and
  • Support dependent children for visas as domestic students.

This new policy will be introduced, in mid-2020

Retaining the stand-down period for low paid workers and family

  • The stand down period will continue for low-paid workers, forcing them to depart New Zealand after holding three 12 month visas.
  • The first group of impacted foreign workers must leave New Zealand, from August 2020.

Impacted parties

These changes are significant, and will impact:

  • All New Zealand employers looking to support work visa application; and
  • Individuals looking to apply for employer-supported New Zealand work visas.

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.