Elly Fleming, Senior Solicitor at Pitt & Moore shares an overview of the recent changes to the Essential Skills Work Visa category. She looks at the changes for oversupplied and undersupplied roles, as well as for roles that do not fall into these lists.
From Wednesday, 7 October 2020, the process for hiring migrant workers under the Essential Skills Work Visa category will change slightly according to oversupply and undersupply of roles.
The government and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) have created lists of occupations and regions facing clear over- or under-supply of New Zealanders on Job Seeker Support.
Historically, New Zealand employers have been required to list job vacancies with Work and Income (WINZ) to determine whether any local workers are able to fill the role first. If that’s not possible, WINZ would send through a Skills Match Report to support a work visa application.
In response to an increase in New Zealand job seekers, MSD have classified ‘lower skilled’ roles (that is, those paid below the national median of $25.50 per hour) that are either oversupplied or undersupplied, and slightly altered the requirements for Skills Match Reports accordingly. Those roles are defined by their Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) codes for clarity.
These changes only affect visa applications made to Immigration NZ on or after 7 October 2020, and any applications submitted prior to this date will simply be considered as part of the previous application assessment process.
Changes for oversupplied roles
If roles are oversupplied, WINZ will not send through a Skills Match Report, thereby encouraging New Zealand employers to fill roles with local talent first.
At time of writing, this includes many but not all roles in retail and hospitality, construction, administration and call centres, manufacturing and warehousing, and transport.
For occupations in regions with oversupply, employers can move straight to engaging with MSD to recruit NZ job seekers when necessary.
Changes for undersupplied roles
Undersupplied roles are diverse and vary between regions, but can include registered nurses, dairy farm workers, engineers, deck and fishing hands, and wine makers. You can check regional availability here.
For those occupations and regions dealing with an undersupply of NZ job seekers, employers will no longer need a Skills Match Report for those ‘lower skilled’ roles. Of course, employers will still have to show to INZ that they’ve tried to fill the role with local talent first.
For roles that aren’t on either the over- or under-supply lists
In this case, there’s no change to the process for hiring; employers will still require a Skills Match Report before they can hire a migrant earning less than the national median wage of $25.50 per hour.
The changes are only temporary, and will undoubtedly shift as the labour market responds to the ongoing effects of COVID-19. We expect the lists to be reviewed in early 2021, or sooner if there are big shifts.
Existing lower skilled migrant staff currently employed in roles on the oversupply list can continue to work until their visa expires, at which point their case will be revisited. Keep in mind that the most recent changes mean that Essential Skills Work Visa holders that would have otherwise expired before the end of 2020 have been extended for an additional six months, giving these workers a half-year reprieve.
Remuneration and median wage
Applicants who are paid below the median wage, currently $25.50 per hour, will need to meet more stringent requirements to be eligible for an Essential Skills Work Visa.
Overview of the rules
If paid below $25.50 per hour:
- Employers will need to engage with MSD and obtain a Skills Match Report
- Employers will also need to advertise the role and consider New Zealanders
- The maximum duration for each visa will be six months for the next 18 months (i.e. during the period of 10 July 2020 to 10 January 2022)
- The maximum combined duration of all work visas in jobs paying below the median wage is three years at which time holders of this visa will be subject to a stand-down period of 12 months.
- You’ll still be able to get support visitor visas for partners (partners can apply for a work visa in their own right)
- You’ll still be able to get support visitor or student visas for dependent children (subject to meeting the minimum income threshold)
If paid at or above $25.50 per hour:
- Employers will need to advertise the role and consider New Zealanders
- The Skills Match Report is not required
- The maximum duration of each visa is three years
- There’s no maximum combined duration, so you’ll not be subject to stand-down
- You’ll still be able to get support visitor or work visas for partners
- You’ll still be able to get support visitor or student visas for dependent children (subject to meeting minimum income threshold).
Get professional advice
We highly recommend employers and temporary visa holders who currently hold or want to apply for a Essential Skills Work Visa get in touch with an immigration practitioner so that they can expertly guide you through your (and your family’s) options for remaining in New Zealand.
Elly Fleming specialises in immigration law and has extensive experience in providing full, end-to-end assistance across a range of visa applications, appeals and section 61 requests, as well as assisting people facing possible deportation.
Elly is passionate about untangling the complexities of immigration law for her clients while strategically guiding them to achieve their goals. Elly believes that listening to – and understanding – clients is the most important foundation upon which good immigration advice is built and is the key to helping clients to make either Australia or New Zealand their home.