The impact on the Racing Industry of the new work visa policy changes – effective 7 April 202422 Apr 2024

“These changes are the start of a more comprehensive work programme to create a smarter immigration system that manages net migration, responds to our changing economic context, attracts top talent, revitalises international education, is self-funding and sustainable, and better manages risk” – Hon Erica Stanford, Minister of Immigration.

These changes have the potential to significantly impact the racing industry in respect to the ability of migrant workers to take up Track Work Rider and Stable Hand roles. Jockeys and Apprentice Jockeys are not impacted by these changes as they are covered under other policies.

Immigration policy relies on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) to determine the skill level of any particular occupation. Skill level 1 & 2 occupations are “high-skilled” and include managers, doctors, engineers, etc. and which normally require at least a relevant degree level qualification. Skill level 3 occupations are considered “mid-skilled” and include many trade (eg; carpenter), technician and similar occupations. Skill level 4 & 5 occupations are considered “low-skilled” and include manual, clerical, service and administrative workers which generally require no, or very little, experience or qualifications. The skill level 4 & 5 occupations are most impacted by these policy changes.

Jockey is a Skill Level 3 role and is described within ANZSCO as follows:

Rides horses in competitive races, race trials, and in exercise. This occupation requires high levels of physical fitness, sporting ability and personal commitment as well as, or in place of, formal qualifications or experience. Registration or licensing is required.

Track Rider is listed, along with Stable Hand, within ANZSCO (classification 841516) as a Skill Level 5 role and is thus caught by this policy change. Previously track riders were on the Immediate Skills Shortage List where they were classified as “jockeys” however this shortage list has long since disappeared.

There is a possible argument that Track Riders could be classified as Jockeys in that they exercise horses but, given the above description, this is not the main task for a Jockey and so the likelihood is that Immigration NZ will classify Track Riders as a Level 5 role.

AEWVs are still possible for Track Riders, but the threshold and requirements are higher and more onerous:
  • The job role must be advertised for longer – 21 days
  • The employer must engage with WINZ to ensure there no available New Zealanders (although WINZ may confirm at the outset that there are no available NZers)
  • The employer must explain why any New Zealand applicants were not suitable, or available to work
  • The migrant worker must pass the English requirement (eg; IELTS 4.0)
  • The migrant worker must evidence, and the employer must directly confirm with documentary evidence, at least 3 years of relevant work experience
The work visa process remains much the same:
  • Complete the advertising and WINZ engagement
  • Apply for the Job Check
  • Following Job Check approval, the worker can apply for the AEWV
  • The AEWV application must include the normal requirements as previously, together with evidence of the required English and the 3 years of relevant work experience
On approval the work visa will only be issued for 2 years. The visa can be extended in the future, by undertaking the same above process, but only for 1 more year, to make a maximum of 3 years. The worker must then leave New Zealand for 12 months (stand down period) before they can re-enter on a new visa.

Job Checks which have been approved, or had been applied for, will remain available for use but the worker must meet the English language, and 3-year work experience requirements, when lodging their AEWV application. The WINZ engagement and 21 days of advertising is not required for Job Checks approved or applied for before 7 April.

Anyone who has already made an AEWV visa application on, or before, 7 April will have their application processed under the previous policy settings and will not be impacted by these changes.

Accredited employers are also the focus of the announced changes. Employers must now take reasonable steps to ensure any migrant worker meets the required qualification and skill requirements for their employment. Employers must also now notify Immigration NZ within 10 working days of any AEWV holder leaving their employment as well as informing INZ of any changes in the key people involved in any hiring decisions.

New penalties, including instant fines and accreditation suspension/cancellation, have been introduced for employers for breaches of employer accreditation regulations. Such breaches include (among others) employers not notifying INZ when an AEWV holder leaves their employment, and employing a worker without the required work rights.

Many trainers will need to apply for the renewal of their employer accreditation this year and everyone needs to be very mindful that, as part of this renewal process, INZ is expected to request evidence of the business’s financial standing, and whether their accreditation obligations, have been met. These obligations include the timely completion of the Employment NZ employer and employee modules, and the provision of settlement information to the migrant worker within the first 30 days of their employment. It is possible some trainers may have overlooked some of these obligations and it is important that a check is undertaken sooner rather than later to see how best to address any such situations, and to best prepare for the future renewal application. We are very much hoping INZ will adopt an “educative” approach to employers who may not have met all their accreditation obligations in regard to the renewal applications but will take this opportunity to clearly outline what is required moving forward.

Please do not hesitate to contact your Pathways® Licenced Immigration Advisers, Tim Howard and Ramandeep Kaur , to answer your queries about the policy changes and employer accreditation at 0508PATHWAYS or email [email protected] and [email protected].