Changes to Be Introduced in Essential Skills Work Visas From July 2021

As part of Government's redesign of the temporary worker visa skilled stream, the essential skills work visa will be impacted from July 2021. Read More.

The New Zealand Government will be implementing changes in July 2021 to the way overseas workers are able to engage in the New Zealand workforce.

Mandatory accreditation with Immigration New Zealand will be required for all employers wishing to employ migrant labour, no matter the size and nature of the business.

See our article on accreditation which gives an outline of what employers will need to do and where a migrant temporary worker fits in the process.

As part of Government’s redesign of the temporary worker visa skilled stream, the current six available categories for a migrant worker to apply under will be refined into one, including the essential skills work visa category being impacted by this initiative. The details of criteria are being developed, although it is anticipated certain aspects will remain which underpin the objectives of temporary work visa stream. In a nutshell, the encompassing principle defined by Government is to grow New Zealand’s human capability base through facilitating employer access to global skills and knowledge aiding in sector and economic growth whilst upholding the integrity of the local labour force and immigration system.

The key components which contribute to meeting with this objective are not likely to change in essence. These are: ensuring New Zealander’s jobs are not undermined by a migrant labour force (which involves ensuring employers are meeting standards such as market pay, good working conditions, employment law and immigration compliance), ensuring any New Zealander’s fit to do a job are given fair opportunity (labour market testing), filling gaps in tested local unavailable skills vocations with migrant labour (workers must be able to do the role determined by relevant skills).

Some changes have already been made since announcements began almost 12 months ago, and are expected to be a part of the overhaul. Changes over this period have largely been formed due to the impact of the Pandemic, where the employment market has been closely monitored since, mostly to ensure New Zealanders are placed at the forefront of recovery in the employment sector to aid in economic regrowth.

The impacts on intending migrant workers have been profound and could continue, including heavy restrictions on entering New Zealand for employment (these are likely to continue), wage and salary threshold increases (which have been confirmed as quite significantly increasing at time of intended July changes), visa length (which may continue, based on demand areas or payrate or both) and more effort required to demonstrate are the best person to fill a vacancy (already somewhat implemented through labour supply determinations based on wages and location).

For existing essential skills work visa holders, the only concessions have been short-term reprieves like automatic visa extensions (including a recent announcement of a further six month extension if employer-assisted work visa expiry occurs in first half of 2021), retained pay rate allowance and postponement of lower-paid workers stand-down periods.

Here is a taste of changes made by the Minister of Immigration, Hon. Kris Faafoi, just prior to Christmas. An array of areas impacting essential skills work visa holders and employers (see link):

Given the timing of this announcement being just prior to a well-deserved Christmas break period and the indications appear to be of some benefit (be mindful this has not been nor is likely to remain the case), it perhaps shows no let-up in the Governments tinkering of migrant related matters, where more adjustments could be on the horizon on the build-up to major implementations occurring in July 2021.

Please bookmark our page to ensure you are kept informed of all future changes.

What a current essential skills work visa holder in New Zealand can do now?

  • Don’t hold-out expecting the New Zealand Government to give any future concessions, or for things to remain as they are in the lead-up to July 2021 new rules. If anything, lawmakers are more likely to refine the rules further to ensure the migrant workforce here can supplement employer’s efforts to recruit locals who have lost jobs during these unprecedented times of shifting sands. There is likely to be some stringency in future to ensure the integrity of the immigration system is maintained.
  • Seek advice from an experienced Adviser at Professional Visa Solutions at least three months out from the expiry of your visa, the sooner the better, even if an auto-extension was granted. Especially if you wish to retain working for your current employer into the future. We will consider things like your pay situation, your role, how best to present your suitability for role(s), the nature of the business employed by and what you and your employer can do to retain your skills particularly in the long-term.
  • If you are a low-paid worker, currently earning under median wage of NZ$25.50 gross per hour, and subject to a stand-down period, it is worthwhile considering any possibility of earning above this, to obtain a longer stay in New Zealand. It is certainly worth making new application whilst the threshold remains at current level if any possibility of earning above this in order to secure a considerably longer visa.

What if you hold another type of visa or are considering changing employer whilst a skills-based visa holder?

  • Allow at least three months validity on your current visa, preferably more. Seek advice from an experienced Adviser at Professional Visa Solutions.
  • If you are in New Zealand and have been offered a job whilst holding another type of visa, our team can discuss what you should do, your chances of success, what you need to succeed, offer an approach to greater your chances, outline the timing of matters and offer realistic discussion with your offering employer.
  • If you are considering changing employer to bode better for your future stay in New Zealand, a variation of conditions may be applicable to your situation, or, we may explore the option to apply for a new visa for longer stay. You should discuss your prospects with us.

Why use Professional Visa Solutions?

We understand the issues migrant workers and their families are facing during these difficult times. We also understand employers and their desire to keep their businesses running under current difficult circumstances, this includes utilising migrant labour.

We are able to hone-in on the issues you are facing, put things in perspective for you and any employer in a realistic and simple way.

We are proud of our successes in gaining visas for those with skills desired by New Zealand employers amidst all the changes over the last 12 months. We know what it takes to gain favourable outcomes and are frequently above to secure lengthy visas much to the delight of valued clients who didn’t expect this.

We strongly encourage discussing your situation with an experienced Adviser from our team well-before visa expiry.

So why wait? Book a consultation today!

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