End of year immigration update for employers5 Dec 2023

Employers employing migrant workers were required to be accredited by Immigration New Zealand from July 2022. Once accredited, an employer must then obtain a Job Check approval, before the worker can apply for an accredited employer work visa (AEWV).

Since this new regime began, now 16 months ago, there have been 31,000 employer accreditation applications, 49,000 Job Check applications covering 230,000 jobs, and 94,000 AEWVs have been approved. The processing of all these applications had been going very (too?) smoothly until a few months ago when a number of significant incidences of migrant exploitation surfaced. Many workers paid large amounts of money, sometimes as much as $50,000, to obtain their New Zealand job and work visa, only to find on their arrival in New Zealand that there was no job, or the job was not what they had signed up for, or that suddenly the work had dried up.

Immigration NZ has now changed the rules. The process of accreditation, Job Check and AEWV was previously able to be completed within 4-6 weeks. This process can now take 3 months or more. INZ is also now, finally, undertaking appropriate verification and checking of all applications to ensure these are credible, and supported by credible evidence. In other policy changes 90-day trial periods are no longer allowed within migrant workers employment agreements, and AEWVs will now (normally) be issued for a 5-year duration. The minimum payrate for an AEWV to be approved is $29.66 per hour (the median payrate) but lower rates can apply for some roles where there is sector agreement (eg; care workforce, hospitality). The previous Government has signalled that this median pay would increase to $31.61 per hour in February next year – it will be interesting to see if the new National led Government ratifies this increase or cancels/defers it due to the cost to employers.

Much of the migrant exploitation is understood to be associated with third-party/labour hire employers, and within the construction sector, and INZ is tightening policies for these employers to require evidence of financial viability, and that their workforce comprises at least 35% of New Zealand workers.

INZ is also currently undertaking audits of (around 16% of) accredited employers to check they have been compliant with their accreditation obligations - including maintenance of time and wage records, and completion of settlement information and Employment NZ modules. Currently 1,600 employer audits have been completed with another 1,200 underway. Some 1,500 complaints have been made against accredited employers, and 103 employers have had their accreditation revoked (many due to business liquidations), and 23 have had their accreditation suspended. Accredited employers should revisit their original accreditation application to ensure they are aware of, and up to date with, their obligations.

INZ is continuing to review the Green List which lists those roles, and the credentials required, for in-demand roles that enable either a straight-to-residence application or a residence application to be made after working in the role for 2 years. Another 17 roles will be added to the Green List in March 2023 including Corrections Officer, welder, fitter, metal fabricator and panel beater, among others.

Congratulations to Hon Erica Stanford, the new Minister of Immigration. It is reassuring to now have a minister who is so passionate, knowledgeable and capable in dealing with the immigration portfolio.

For any immigration matter please do not hesitate to contact the friendly Pathways® team.

Link: First Published in the Waikato Business News December 2023 Edition Page 10