Employers looking to employ skilled migrant workers will be impacted by this year’s introduction of the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) – a new temporary work visa that opens to applications from employers on 9 May 2022 and to applications from migrants on 4 July 2022. This change will impact many employers, in particular those in key industries such as agriculture, hospitality, construction and tourism, which rely on migrant labour to fill shortages.
Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is replacing the Essential Skills Work Visa, the Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa and the Long-Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa with the AEWV.
INZ says the AEWV will reduce reliance on lower paid temporary migrant workers and increase the overall skill level of migrants coming to work in New Zealand. INZ also says it will combat migrant exploitation and misuse of the immigration system by filtering out employers who have previously breached immigration requirements or employment standards at the accreditation stage.
However, it will also introduce more red tape for employers, who will have to deal directly with INZ and go through the accreditation process before advertising jobs. The process is more complex and bureaucratic than anything seen before in New Zealand, and it is recommended employers be aware of the requirements and plan in advance for these changes.
In short, INZ is introducing a three-check process to manage applications and ensure that employers and migrants fit the new requirements. The three checks are:
- Employer accreditation
- Job check
- Migrant check
The first step sees employers able to apply from 9 May 2022 to ensure they can get accreditation before migrant applications open on 4 July. Employers don’t need to be accredited until they want to start employing migrants but delay in obtaining accreditation means delay in an employer’s ability to support a migrant’s application.
Standard accreditation is required for up to five migrant workers on AEWV, and high-volume accreditation is for those employing six or more migrant workers on AEWV.
The requirements for standard accreditation include being IRD registered and holding a New Zealand Business Number, having no recent history of regulatory non-compliance, having appropriate employment documentation, and taking steps to minimise the risk of exploitation.
In addition, for high-volume accreditation, jobs must meet a minimum pay requirement of 10 percent above the minimum wage or be covered by a collective agreement.
There are further requirements for franchisees and for businesses that place AEWV holders with third parties, as it is considered that the risk of migrant exploitation is increased in such work environments.
The second check INZ will carry out is a job check or labour market test to ensure that, for any job offered through the AEWV scheme, the employer holds accreditation, the employment is acceptable, and no New Zealanders are available.
The labour market test requirements vary for jobs paying above and below the median wage and depend on whether the job is located in a city or a region. There are also specific job advertising requirements to ascertain availability of New Zealanders to do the job.
A labour market test is not required if:
- the job pays 200% of the median wage, (currently the median wage is NZD $27 an hour);
- the job is in the regions and pays at, or above, the median wage; and
- the job is on a skill shortage list, in a city, and pays at, or above, the median wage.
The final step is the migrant check, ensuring the applicant meets the visa requirements. This is done through online applications, available from 4 July 2022, and ensures that the applicant is suitably qualified and meets requirements in terms of health, character, and bona fide credentials.
A migrant will not be able to submit their application unless the employer is already accredited, and the job has passed the job check stage.
What is next?
It is not yet known how long it will take INZ to process an accreditation application or to complete the three-check process. As a result, we recommend that employers don’t leave applying for accreditation to the last minute.
It is not yet known if employers will have review or appeal rights where negative decisions are made. Further information from INZ is expected, including tools for employers and migrants, a definition of ‘franchisee’ for accreditation, and details around fees for the three-check process.
Initially, this system change will undoubtedly increase costs, time and red tape, and support for navigating the processes involved will be needed.