Lauren Qiu, Principal at Stay Legal, provides an overview of the recent 7 May 2021 update about the new proposed 2021 Accredited Employer Work Visa (also known as the AEWV) and the new Employer Accreditation system.
The Proposed Changes
Immigration New Zealand has just provided an update on the new proposed 2021 Accredited Employer Work Visa (also known as the AEWV) and the new Employer Accreditation system on 7 May 2021. This article will provide an overview of the proposed changes and explain the new employer-led visa process.
Please note that Immigration New Zealand has indicated that these are still proposed changes, so there may still be further minor adjustments to the policy.
Broadly speaking, the new proposed 2021 changes are:
- The introduction of the Accredited Employer Work Visa which will replace 6 existing work visas.
- The introduction of the Accredited Employer Work Visa employer-led visa process which will include the new Employer Accreditation system.
The New Accredited Employer Work Visa
Immigration New Zealand is proposing to introduce the new Accredited Employer Work Visa to replace 6 employer-assisted work visa categories on 1 November 2021. The affected categories are listed below:
Source: Immigration New Zealand
Temporary visas that are not listed above will not be replaced by the Accredited Employer Work Visa. These include Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Limited Visa, Working Holiday Schemes, Post-Study Work Visa, Fishing Crew Work Visa, Religious Worker Work Visa, Specific Purpose Work Visa, Partnership Work Visas, and work visas granted based on international or humanitarian reasons.
Applications for the 6 affected existing work visa categories will close on 31 October 2021. Existing work visas in a category that is being replaced will remain valid until the work visa expires or if the visa becomes invalid.
The new Accredited Employer Work Visa will still specify the employer, job role, and job location. Variation of Conditions will still exist and be required for certain situations. On 7 May 2021, Immigration New Zealand stated that they are still working through the Variation of Conditions policy and will provide further policy updates in due course.
The replacement of the Work to Residence – Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa and Work to Residence – Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa will mean that these pathways to residence will also cease. Please note that on 7 May 2021, Immigration New Zealand explained that they will have transitional policies put in place for migrant workers who have applied for or about to apply for their Residence from Work Residence Visas. One of the proposed transitional requirements is for migrant workers who have a Residence from Work Residence Visa application already underway to remain with their employer. Immigration New Zealand has yet to clarify what the transitional policy will be for migrant workers who are about to apply for their Residence from Work Residence Visas and will provide further policy updates in due course.
The New Proposed Accredited Employer Work Visa Employer-Led Visa Process & Employer Accreditation System Overview
Immigration New Zealand is proposing to flip the current existing work visa process on its head. Employers will soon lead the work visa process. This means that a migrant worker’s potential employer will need to gain Employer Accreditation and complete the Job Check before the migrant worker can apply for a work visa.
The new proposed Accredited Employer Work Visa employer-led visa process will have 3 checks:
- The Employer Check.
- The Job Check.
- The Migrant Worker Check.
The Employer Check
What It Means For Employers
The Employer Check will replace 3 existing employer policies. The renewal applications for the following policies will close on 30 June 2021:
- Approval in Principle gained by an employer to hire migrant workers on Essential Skills Work Visas.
- The existing Employer Accreditation system to hire migrant workers on Work to Residence – Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visas.
- The existing Labour Hire Accreditation to hire migrant workers on Essential Skills Work Visas.
Under the new proposed Accredited Employer Work Visa employer-led visa process, it will be mandatory for all employers (including existing Accredited Employers) to be accredited under the new proposed Employer Accreditation system before they can hire a migrant worker on the new proposed Accredited Employer Work Visa.
The new proposed Employer Accreditation system will be launched in late September 2021. Employers who are wanting to support migrant workers on the Accredited Employer Work Visas immediately on the introduction date (1 November 2021) will be able to apply for the new Employer Accreditation during late September 2021, before the official 1 November 2021 Accredited Employer Work Visa introduction date. This will allow employers to gain accreditation and be ready for when the new Accredited Employer Work Visa is introduced. Employers have until 31 October 2021 to support migrant workers under the current work visa policies.
Employers who are currently supporting migrant workers on Work to Residence – Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visas or Essential Skills Work Visas do not need to be accredited under the new Employer Accreditation system until they want to support a migrant worker on the new Accredited Employer Work Visa. For example, if an employer has a migrant worker whose Essential Skills Work Visa expires in March 2022, the employer does not need to be accredited under the new Employer Accreditation system on 1 November 2021 unless they are planning to support a migrant worker immediately after the new Accredited Employer Work Visa application system is introduced.
Employers that only hire migrant workers on visas with open work visa rights (such as the Partnership Work Visa, Working Holiday Work Visa, or Student Work Visa) will not need to be accredited.
What The New Proposed Employer Accreditation Will Look Like
Immigration New Zealand is proposing for there to be 2 accreditation levels under the new proposed Accredited Employer Work Visa employer-led visa process. The proposed levels of accreditation are:
- Standard Accreditation: For employers who intend to support between 1 and 5 migrant workers on the new Accredited Employer Work Visa at any one time.
- High-Volume Accreditation: For employers who intend to support 6 or more migrant workers on the new Accredited Employer Work Visa at any one time.
It is important to note that migrant workers on other visa types (such as those on Working Holiday Work Visas) do not count towards the total number of Accredited Employer Work Visa employees.
When initially approved, all Accredited Employers under the new system will receive accreditation for 12 months. At renewal, Standard Accredited Employers and High-Volume Accredited Employers will receive accreditation for a further 24 months. Franchisee employers and employers who are wanting to place their migrant workers on the new Accredited Employer Work Visa with third parties (triangular employers) will only receive accreditation for a further 12 months upon renewal.
All employers who intend to support migrant workers on the new proposed Accredited Employer Work Visa will need to meet Standard Accreditation requirements. To gain Standard Accreditation, employers must:
- Be a genuine operating business. This means they must be registered with Inland Revenue and hold a New Zealand Business Number. Immigration New Zealand may also request for evidence of the employer’s financial position.
- Not have a recent history of regulatory non-compliance with immigration law and employment law.
- Take steps to minimise the risk of migrant worker exploitation. This is done by completing employment modules, providing migrant workers with advice on their rights, and paying recruitment costs (these costs include advertising costs, agency fees, employer and job check application fees, training and induction costs, health and safety equipment costs, and branded uniform costs).
To gain High-Volume Accreditation, employers must meet the requirements for Standard Accreditation and also demonstrate a commitment to improving pay and employment conditions for all employees over time. What this means is that jobs with High-Volume Accreditation employers must either pay 10% above the minimum wage or be covered by a collective agreement. This means that if a High-Volume Employer submits a Job Check for a job paying less than 10% above the minimum wage, and is not covered by a collective agreement, the Job Check will be declined.
There will be additional requirements for franchisee employers. Franchisee employers must meet the requirements for Standard Accreditation (and High-Volume Accreditation if applicable). Franchisee employers must also have been operating for at least 12 months and have a proven history of hiring New Zealand workers.
There will also be additional requirements for triangular employers. Triangular employers will include labour-hire companies and working arrangements where parent companies place their migrant employees into their subsidiary companies. Triangular employers must meet the requirements for Standard Accreditation (and High-Volume Accreditation if applicable). Triangular employers must also only place migrant workers on Accredited Employer Work Visas with compliant businesses, have good systems in place to monitor employment and safety conditions on-site, have a history of contracting labour for the past 12 months, and demonstrate that at least 15% of their workforce being placed with third party businesses are New Zealand Citizens or New Zealand Residents in full-time employment (at least 30 hours each week).
Immigration New Zealand estimates that there will be 22,000 employers that will need standard accreditation and 2,000 employers that will need high-volume accreditation.
Immigration New Zealand has stated that application fees have yet to be determined, but the Employer Check application fee will be covered by the employer.
Key Practical Considerations For Employers
The upfront cost of recruitment and applying for accreditation will rest with the employer. It would be wise for employers to carry out a proper recruitment process so that the application does not fall over at the Migrant Worker Check. Employers should therefore check to see if the potential migrant worker is suitably qualified and check for potential character issues.
A positive aspect about the new employer-led visa process is that it will be an easier process to deal with employer issues directly. Previously, a lot of employer issues had to be dealt with during a migrant worker’s visa application.
The Job Check
The Job Check must be completed before a migrant worker can be supported and it will look at the remuneration and terms of the job offer. This step may also include a Labour Market Test for roles that require a Labour Market Test to be completed. A Labour Market Test is an advertising test to demonstrate that the employer has genuinely advertised the job to New Zealand Citizens or Residents and has been unsuccessful with finding a New Zealand Citizen or Resident to do the job. Immigration New Zealand expects employers to pay for the Job Check.
For jobs paying below the median wage (currently at $25.50 per hour and due to increase to $27.00 per hour around mid to late 2021), the Labour Market Test will still include a check with the Ministry of Social Development. A Labour Market Test will not be required for jobs paying 200% of the median wage. For jobs paying at or above the median wage and are on a skills shortage list in a city (Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton, Dunedin, and Auckland), a Labour Market Test will also not be required. It is likely that a Labour Market Test will be required for jobs paying at or above the median wage but are not on a skill shortage list in a city. For jobs paying at or above the median wage in a region (a location in New Zealand that is not deemed to be a city by Immigration New Zealand), a Labour Market Test will not be required. On 7 May 2021, Immigration New Zealand indicated that more information on specific Labour Market Test requirements and the confirmation of region and city settings will be announced in June 2021 or July 2021.
Under the Job Check, there will also be Sector Agreements negotiated with sectors that have a high reliance on temporary migrant workers (especially in lower-paid occupations). Sector Agreements will enable the government to agree to a workforce plan with the sector and the conditions to be met for recruiting migrant workers for a specified sector. Immigration New Zealand has proposed potential Sector Agreements with the Residential Care (Including Aged Care), Meat Processing, Dairy, Forestry, Road Freight Transport, and Tourism and Hospitality sectors. Construction, horticulture, and viticulture are also likely candidates. On 7 May 2021, Immigration New Zealand indicated that more information about Sector Agreements will be announced later in 2021.
The Migrant Worker Check
The Migrant Worker Check will be the last step in the proposed Accredited Employer Work Visa process and is the actual migrant worker’s visa application. Under the new proposed process, the migrant worker will need to be requested to apply for a visa by their employer. The Migrant Worker Check will check the migrant worker’s identity, if they are suitably qualified (if they have the skills, experience, and/or qualifications), and whether the migrant worker is of good health and character. Further information about the Migrant Worker Check will be available around June or July 2021.
Immigration Application Fees
On 7 May 2021, Immigration New Zealand stated that the application fees for the new proposed 2021 Accredited Employer Work Visa and the new Employer Accreditation have yet to be finalised. The application fees will be finalised and announced around August 2021.
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 appealed decisions. Connect with Lauren via email or LinkedIn