2019 is seeing major policy changes proposed by the Government that will affect the six most commonly utilised work visa categories. This will place obligations on all employers wishing to recruit foreign workers to become accredited under one of three new categories. There will also be four new 'job gateways' introduced through which the employer can recruit. The changes are designed to encourage employers to place more New Zealanders into jobs and to reduce exploitation of migrant workers.

Accreditation applications left until the proposals come into force will likely result in delayed processing times of accreditation approvals under the new categories (due to the high volume of applications expected once the changes are formalised). This may mean a delay in employees being able to obtain new work visas and a period within which the employee may not be legally entitled to work in New Zealand.

Update as at 17 September 2019

On 17 September 2019, the Government released further specifics in regard to changes to the current employer accreditation scheme and the Talent (Accredited Employer) Work to Residence Visa (TAE WTR visa).

These changes are as follows and take effect from 7 October 2019:

  • The minimum salary threshold for a TAE WTR visa will increase from NZD$55,000.00 p.a. to NZD$79,560.00 p.a.;
  • There will no longer be an option to obtain a Permanent Resident Visa when applying for a Talent Accredited Employer Resident Visa; and
  • Employer accreditation will be granted for a 24 month period only before a renewal application is required.

It has been confirmed that compulsory employer accreditation scheme will be designed over the next 18 months and will take effect from 2021. Specific details as to how currently accredited employers will transition to the new accreditation scheme are therefore yet to be released.

Current take away points

  • Migrants already holding TAE WTR visas or who have applied prior to 7 October 2019 will not be affected by the increase in remuneration threshold;
  • Migrants applying for a TAE WTR from 7 October 2019 will be required to have a salary of at least $79,560.00 p.a.
  • Employers wishing to apply for accreditation now should make sure they can pay migrant employees at least NZD$79,560.00 as the processing timeframe for an accreditation application is currently three months.
  • Employers should apply for accreditation now to avoid a backlog in accreditation applications and potential delays in current or potential employees being able to obtain work visas.
  • Migrants with visas expiring mid to late 2020 should apply for new visas as soon as possible to avoid likely delay in visa processing.

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.