Lauren Qiu, Principal at Stay Legal provides an overview of the recent 27 July 2020 changes to the Essential Skills Work Visa. Lauren explains the labour market test requirements, visa durations, Essential Skills Work Visa holders’ ability to support family, and the impact of the changes on Variation of Conditions applications.
Prior to 27 July 2020, Essential Skills Work Visas relied on a skill band classification system (higher-skilled, mid-skilled, and lower-skilled). The skill band of a migrant worker was determined by a combination of their remuneration and their ANZSCO code skill level.
Immigration New Zealand has simplified this process on 27 July 2020 by implementing a New Zealand median wage-based classification system. The current New Zealand median wage is $25.50 per hour. Under the new classification system, migrant workers are either classified as being paid below the New Zealand median wage (low-paid) or being paid at or above the New Zealand median wage (high-paid). Therefore, Migrant workers on salaries should be mindful when converting their annual salary to an hourly wage. If a migrant worker works a range of hours each week, Immigration New Zealand will divide the annual salary by the maximum number of hours worked to calculate the migrant worker’s hourly wage.
The 27 July 2020 changes do not fully remove the use of ANZSCO codes. Migrant workers will still need to match their job to a relevant ANZSCO code so that Immigration New Zealand can determine whether the migrant worker is suitably qualified (through their qualifications and/or relevant experience).
The labour market test requirements, the visa duration, and the visa types that the migrant worker can support their partner and/or dependent child(ren) on will depend on whether the migrant worker is low-paid or high-paid.
Labour Market Test Requirements
If a migrant worker does not meet the requirements of any skill shortage lists, then the migrant worker’s employer will to need to carry out a labour market test to demonstrate that they have made genuine attempts to advertise the job vacancy to recruit suitable New Zealand citizens, permanent residents, or residents.
The employer of a high-paid migrant worker will not need to engage with the Ministry of Social Development to request for a Skills Match Report. An employer of a low-paid migrant worker must engage with the Ministry of Social Development to request for a Skills Match Report.
A high-paid migrant worker can now be issued with an Essential Skills Work Visa with a duration of up to 3 years. A low-paid Essential Skills Work Visa application that is received by Immigration New Zealand on or after 10 July 2020 until 10 January 2022 inclusive, can now be issued with an Essential Skills Work Visa with a duration of up to 6 months.
The lower-skilled work visa stand-down period still applies to low-paid Essential Skills Work Visa holders. This means that low-paid migrant workers who have worked in New Zealand for 3 years on lower-skilled/low-paid Essential Skills Work Visas will still need to leave New Zealand for 12 months to qualify for a further low-paid Essential Skills Work Visa. The migrant worker may remain in New Zealand if they are approved for a high-paid work visa after holding lower-skilled/low-paid work visas for 3 years.
It is important to note that, Immigration New Zealand has recently delayed the introduction of the 12 month stand-down period for lower-skilled/low-paid migrant workers who have had their Essential Skills Work Visas extended by the 7 July 2020 work visa extension announcement.
Essential Skills Work Visa Holders’ Ability to Support Family
Immigration New Zealand has reinstated the ability for lower-skilled/low-paid Essential Skills Work Visa holders to support their partner and dependent child(ren) for the duration of their work visa. The low-paid work visa holder still needs to meet the minimum income threshold (currently at $43,322.76 gross per annum).
Low-paid Essential Skills Work Visa holders who meet the WF3.1.1 exceptions can still support their partners on work visas. All other low-paid Essential Skills Work Visa holders can only support their partners on visitor visas, not work visas. However, the partner of a low-paid Essential Skills Work Visa can apply for a work visa in their own right. Low-paid Essential Skills Work Visa holders can also support their dependent child(ren) for visitor visas (if they are under school age) or domestic student visas (if they are at primary or secondary school age).
High-paid Essential Skills Work Visa holders can support their partners on work visas or visitor visas. High-paid Essential Skills Work Visa holders can also support their dependent child(ren) for visitor visas (if they are under school age) or domestic student visas (if they are at primary or secondary school age).
All offshore partners and dependent child(ren) are still subject to the current border restrictions.
Variation of Conditions
A migrant worker who holds an Essential Skills Work Visa can apply for a Variation of Conditions if they are wanting to change their employer (not their job title and/or job location, unless the job is on a skill shortage list and the migrant worker meets the skill shortage list requirements).
From 27 July 2020, a migrant worker who is on a mid-skilled or a higher-skilled Essential Skills Work Visa and is looking to change their employer will not be granted a Variation of Conditions if the new job offer is low-paid (paid under $25.50 per hour). The migrant worker must apply for a new work visa.
Similarly, a migrant worker who is on a high-paid (paid at or above $25.50 per hour) Essential Skills Work Visa and is looking to change their employer will also not be granted a Variation of Conditions if the new job offer is low-paid (paid under $25.50 per hour). The migrant worker must apply for a new work visa.
Lauren Qiu is the Principal of Stay Legal. She is an experienced specialist immigration lawyer who provides honest advice and practical solutions. She has presented at national and regional seminars on immigration law. Lauren is currently an immigration law guest lecturer teaching aspiring immigration advisers.
Lauren is practical, effective, and dedicated. Lauren has assisted employers with practical advice, high net worth individuals with tailored solutions, skilled migrants and their families to gain residency, and unlawful migrants regain their lawful status. She has successfully requested character waivers, medical waivers, ministerial special directions, and appeals. Connect with Lauren via email or LinkedIn