The New Zealand government is proposing significant changes to the employer-assisted work visa framework. This immigration update is intended to give a brief overview of the key proposed changes. Further updates will follow, when this consultation period closes, and as new policies are implemented.

What are the key proposals?

  1.  Introduction of a "gateway framework"

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

      This involves mandatory accreditation for 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

      As the labour market check phase, this proposes to introduce:
      • Regional Skill Shortage Lists
      • Industry sector agreements, eg for hospitality
      • No labour market testing for salaries of $101,046+
      • A salary increase from $55,000 to $78,000, for employers with premium accreditation looking to support employees for 'work to residence' visas.
    3. 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.
  2. Regional Skill Shortage Lists

    Regional Skill Shortage Lists will be introduced to replace the current Essential Skills in Demand lists. This proposal acknowledges that labour market conditions do vary by region.
  3. Increasing "mid-skilled" remuneration levels

    The minimum hourly rate for mid-skilled workers is set to be increased from $21.25 to $24.29. This will result in many individuals being reclassified as "low skilled."
  4. ANZSCO challenges

    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.
  5. Reviewing the stand-down period and dependent restrictions for low skilled workers

    Feedback is being sought on the existing 'stand down period' and also the restrictions on bringing dependents, for "low skilled" workers.

Impacted parties

If these changes are implemented, they will impact:

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

Relevant dates

These changes are out for a public consultation, which closes at 5pm on 18 March 2019.

The Minister will then report back to Cabinet, in June 2019 with changes set to be implemented, from August 2019.

Regional Skill Shortage Lists are likely to be fast-tracked, however, and could be introduced, as early as April 2019.

Our advice

We encourage those impacted to submit feedback during this consultation period.

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.