As 2022 draws to a close, the New Zealand government has announced a variety of immigration updates that affect foreign nationals' work authorization and employers' accreditation status. These updates include a new online application process for the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC), simplifications in the variation process for holders of Accredited Employer Work Visas (AEWVs) and Essential Skills Work Visas (ESWVs), automatic extensions for certain employer accreditations, and streamlined processes to enable Critical Purpose Visitor Visa holders to obtain Specific Purpose visas while staying in their current role.

Skilled Migrant Category Updates

The Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) resident visa is designed for foreign nationals who have skills that will contribute to New Zealand's economic growth. Before an individual can apply, they must submit an expression of interest (EOI) to Immigration New Zealand (INZ) that details their work experience and qualifications. Eligible foreign nationals will then be sent an Invitation to Apply by INZ. As of December 2022, applicants may now submit their SMC applications through a streamlined online process.

Accredited Employer Work Visa Updates

Accredited Employer Work Visas (AEWVs) are temporary visas available to foreign nationals who have a job offer from an accredited employer and the skills and qualifications for the job. AEWVs are tied to the employer who offered the foreign national the visa application for the length of the visa. If the foreign national's situation changes, they must apply to vary the conditions of their visa or apply for an entirely new visa.

Under INZ's updated policy, AEWV holders may now vary their employer, occupation, and work location by submitting a Job Change application. These changes can only be made if the new employer is accredited. AEWV holders earning a salary below the median wage also require an exemption.

Separately, INZ has delayed a plan that would restrict the work authorization of AEWV partners. The plan was originally set to be implemented in December 2022, but has been pushed back to April 2023.

INZ has also announced an automatic 12-month extension for employers whose accreditation is filed on or before July 4, 2023. A proposed expansion of the accreditation system has been delayed until 2024.

Essential Skills Work Visa Updates

New Zealand's Essential Skills Work Visa (ESWV) was designed for foreign nationals with a job offer for a role that could not be filled by a New Zealander. New applications for the visa category were phased out as of July 4, 2022, but existing ESWV holders can still apply to vary their visa terms. Specifically, under the new policies, ESWV holders can only apply for variations if the sponsoring employer conducts a new labor market test, assuming no exemptions apply. However, ESWV holders can now apply for variations even if they are paid below the median wage and even if they need to update their employer, occupation, and work location.

Critical Purpose Visitor Visa Updates

Critical Purpose Visitor Visas were available to foreign nationals with a critical purpose for visiting New Zealand while the border was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Foreign nationals holder Critical Purpose Visitor Visas with 12-month validity may now apply for a Specific Purpose Work Visa, which allows individuals to come to New Zealand for a specific purpose or event, or to work for a specific employer for the time allowed to complete the specific purpose or event. The streamlined application process would allow Critical Purpose Visitor Visa holders to stay in their present role and to work for up to 3 years in New Zealand.

Green List Updates

INZ has also made updates to New Zealand's Green List, a catalog of high-skilled occupations in short supply in the country. Foreign nationals coming to New Zealand to fill jobs on the Green List have an expedited pathway to residency according to a tiered system. As of December 15, 2022, registered nurses, specialist doctors, and midwives have been added to the Tier 1 (Straight to Residency) list. Registered auditors will be added as of March 2023.

Originally published 27 December, 2022

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