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Immigration Update April 2022

Immigration Update: April 2022

There have been a number of changes announced by Immigration New Zealand around the new employer accreditation and the accredited employer work visa (AEWV). We’ve prepared an overview of the latest developments, to help you get prepared.

What’s the latest?  

New Accreditation

At this point in time, the information remains largely as it was when first released, with a few key changes. We know that the minimum requirements will be fairly standard, but detailed information has yet to be provided. Generally speaking, businesses must:

  • Be a genuine operating business and hold a New Zealand Business Number (NZBN)
  • Be registered as an employer with Inland Revenue (IRD)
  • Be financially sound. For businesses which have been in operation for more than 12 months; evidence of this isn’t required with the application, although could be requested later.
  • Have no recent history of regulatory non-compliance. This includes both immigration and employment related offences. INZ have defined recent as ‘must not be subject to a current stand down period & the duration is usually dependent on the seriousness of the offence’.
  • Cover the cost of all recruitment costs both within and outside New Zealand and ensure that recruitment decision makers complete the Employment New Zealand’s online modules on employment rights.
  • Demonstrate commitment to settlement support activities by allowing migrant workers time to complete modules on employment rights during work time. It’s important to note that companies are expected to maintain a register of these activities throughout the duration of their accreditation.

Generally speaking, it’s been indicated that the application itself will be very straightforward, you won’t need to provide a high volume of supporting documentation and information like you would previously through the old accreditation category.  INZ will complete their own checks using publicly available information and MBIE records. You’ll only need to prepare further detail if this is deemed insufficient and INZ actually request it.

Remember – whether you had accreditation previously has no bearing on this process; you will need to apply for the new accreditation in its own right. However if your existing accreditation has 6 months of validity remaining after the 23rd May 2022, then the fee for your first accreditation under AEWV will be waived.

There are still two different levels of accreditation:

  • Standard — intend to employ up to 5 migrant workers on AEWVs at any one time.
  • High-volume — intend to employ 6 or more migrant workers on AEWVs at any one time.

 

But when it comes to the application, the requirements for both standard and high volume accreditation are now the same, except there is a higher fee payable for the high volume application.  INZ have indicated that additional requirements for high volume employers may be considered in future. This would likely be evidence of training and a commitment to employing New Zealanders.

This means that the previous requirement that jobs must pay at least 10% above minimum wage or be covered by a collective agreement in order to apply for high volume accreditation is no longer applicable. The new median wage criteria will now apply for both levels of accreditation.

Employers can upgrade from standard to high-volume accreditation at any stage; there is a fee to upgrade.

INZ have advised that there will still be additional requirements for employers who are franchisees or who place AEWV holders with controlling third parties – however there is now no limit on the number of AEWV holders these employers can employ at one time.

Accreditation Duration
  • First time approvals will receive accreditation for 12 months.
  • At renewal, franchisees and employers placing migrants on AEWVs with controlling third parties will get accreditation for a further 12 months and all other employers will get accreditation for 24 months.

 

Job Check

This is the first stage of any application through the new AEWV category; if you have a role you’re trying to fill urgently which isn’t appropriate for Critical Purpose, you’re able to submit a Job Check request from the 20th of June onward. At this stage, INZ have confirmed that multiple positions for the same ‘role’ can be included in one job check if the details are the same (they consider the same as being the same occupation, pay range, region or city and minimum job requirements) and are all covered by the same advertising (where required) and proposed employment agreement. This will ease the burden somewhat, but the job check would however only be valid for up to 6 months.

In the ‘job check’ stage, there are also varying levels of supporting information required, dependent on salary and other factors, any special dispensation around advertising or criteria for roles which are scarce or highly skilled is still under consideration at this point in time.

Pathways through the job check
  • As the first check, all jobs must pay the market rate and have terms and conditions that comply with New Zealand employment laws and standards.
  • Other job check requirements will depend on the job’s pay rate and occupation.

 

Highly paid jobs
  • If the employee is paid at least 200% of the median wage, you do not need to advertise the role.
  • Visas for these roles can be for up to 3 years and can offer a pathway to residence (further detail not available yet).

 

All other jobs
  • All other roles must pay at least the median wage and you must have advertised to New Zealanders.
  • Visas for these roles can be for up to 3 years. As above, the Government is still considering whether there will be any exemptions to the requirement to pay at least the median wage, and restrictions for some other roles.
  • Important to note here that the median wage will increase from NZD $27.00 an hour to NZD $27.76 an hour on 4th July 2022, when the Accredited Employer Work Visa opens for applications, and this is the rate that will be considered for any job check applications from 20th June (even if submitted before the July date).

 

Advertising requirements
  • The terms and conditions of the job must be clear in the job advertisement.
  • The employer must genuinely consider any New Zealanders who apply.

It hasn’t been clearly specified but this would usually mean an overview of any applicants with reasons as to why they are unsuitable would be required. This would of course be different where there are skills shortages or similar.

Important to note that the Labour Market Test is no longer regionalized. All employers need to advertise their vacancies unless the role is paid at least twice the median wage.

Advertising must:
  • Be for a minimum of 2 weeks on a national job listing website where suitable New Zealanders are likely to apply, or another advertising channel more likely to attract suitable New Zealanders to the specific role
  • Show significant terms and conditions including the minimum and maximum pay rate, the minimum guaranteed hours of work, the location of the job
  • Show the estimated actual earnings where a significant portion of the pay is by piece rate, commission or other rates or bonuses that are not guaranteed
  • Show minimum qualifications, work experience, skills or other specifications necessary to do the job.

 

Calculating the minimum pay rate

To accommodate the median wage threshold, INZ will provide more flexibility when calculating the minimum pay rate for the AEWV.

From 4th July 2022, employee’s pay will be averaged over the number of hours paid in the pay period. Employers will need to guarantee in their worker’s employment that the equivalent of the median wage will be worked per hour, in each pay cycle. Some employers may need to change employment agreements to provide these guarantees – this may be problematic with collective agreements etc, but we would need to wait for more detail.

Pathway to residence

INZ have confirmed that there will be pathway to Residence for migrants who have held an AEWV for 2 years and are paid at least 200% of the median wage, this is a significant increase when compared with the previous accredited employer category threshold for a similar pathway to Residence. Further detail is still being reviewed.

 

What are the dates I need to be aware of?

  • 23 May 2022 – Employers can apply for accreditation.
  • 20 June 2022 – Accredited employers can submit a job check.
  • 3 July 2022 – This is last day that applications for Essential Skills Visas will be accepted.
  • 4 July 2022 – Applications for the AEWV will open, applications can be submitted after this date, provided the employer has received accreditation, and a job check has been completed.

 

So, what does this mean for my company?

No detailed information or instructions have been released by Immigration New Zealand yet however there are a few points to be mindful of at this stage.

  • As above, the threshold for a confirmed pathway to Residence (comparative with the old Residence from Work category) has changed significantly. It’s important that any stakeholders involved in recruitment are aware of this impact.
  • It’s important to note, that for existing employees whose work visa may be expiring, if your company has not yet received accreditation or completed the ‘Job Check’ process, allowing them to apply for a new AEWV, then a bridging visa can be applied for, however INZ have advised that this will only result in a visitor visa and will not allow them to work.
  • There may be alternate options dependent on their status and whether or not they have applied for a Residence 2021 visa. It is important to understand early on whom this may impact, as realistically, there are no guarantees around how long processing of the accreditation will take, given it’s likely INZ will receive a high volume of applications at one time.
  • Some applicants may need to consider applying for a new Essential Skills Visa prior to the category’s closure on the 3rd July 2022.

For more detailed information about the changes and how they might impact your people, connect with our team of fully licensed advisers by contacting Crown World Mobility at [email protected]

This summary was prepared using information obtained from INZ. Information is subject to change without notice.