Employers – fasten those seatbelts!11 Nov 2021

The 2021 Resident Visa announced by the Government last month is forecast to transition 165,000 migrant workers and their families, now in New Zealand, to becoming New Zealand residents. It will also reunite some families who have been separated for an extended time as these family members can be included in the workers’ resident applications.

A migrant worker can qualify for the 2021 Resident Visa if, on 29 September 2021, they held a qualifying work visa AND have either lived in New Zealand for three years OR are being paid at $27 ph or more OR they are working in one of the many jobs on the “scarce role” list. Applications will be made on-line, there are no English or age requirements, and the expectation is that 80% of applications will be processed within 12 months.

The eventual residence outcomes will provide long term security for both migrant workers and their employers, who can now plan their futures together. However, in the meantime those workers who have already lodged their residence, or are holding work-to-residence visas, will need to make the decision on whether they rely on these existing residence pathways or take the opportunity afforded by the 2021 Resident Visa.

This decision will be informed by the expected application processing times, cost and the likely less onerous requirements of the new resident visa process. Understandably some applicants will decide to maintain their existing residence pathway and to additionally undertake the 2021 Resident Visa and then rely on whichever is decided first.

The Government has also provided an update on the new Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) which was originally scheduled to begin from 1 November this year. This new work visa regime, which will replace 6 existing work visa categories, will now begin from 4 July 2022. From this date, all employers, must be accredited with Immigration New Zealand in order to employ a migrant worker on an employer-assisted work visa. INZ will begin accepting employer accreditation applications from 9 May 2022. Apart from ensuring all employment documentation and employment practices are compliant with current laws there is little else employers can do at this time to prepare for this accreditation process.

The reality is that the majority of work visa holders will be eligible for the 2021 Resident Visa, and once they have successfully completed this process, they will be able to work for any employer, whether INZ accredited or not. On this basis the requirement for many employers to become accredited in the long term will be significantly reduced although there will still be an initial requirement to cover the interim period while workers are waiting for the outcome of their resident applications.

After an extended period of immigration policy stalemate, the road ahead is clear – finally!

Link: First published in Waikato Business News October/November Volume 29: Issue 10 2021, page 12