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Several updates have been made to Immigration New Zealand (INZ) settings, with more to come. This alert summarises key changes.

1. Open Partnership Work Visas

Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) holders will no longer be able to support partners for Open Partnership Work Visas, from December 2022. Exceptions include if the AEWV holder meets Green List requirements or earns at least double the median wage (currently $55.52 hourly). We recommend submitting AEWV and Partnership Work visa applications that fall outside of these exceptions as soon as able.

2. Vaccination and testing requirements

Travellers to New Zealand no longer need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or complete testing after arrival. Traveller declarations are still required.

3. Physical passport verification

The requirement for some offshore nationals to send physical passports to a Visa Application Centre has been (temporarily) suspended. This will allow INZ to clear a backlog of applications, following the recent border opening. Automated emails requesting physical passport can be ignored. Non-automated emails from case officers will still need to be followed.

4. Acceptable standard of health requirements

The threshold for determining whether an applicant has an acceptable standard of health for residence has been increased from to $41,000 to $81,000. This is assessed over a 5 year period, or the course of a medical condition. This is a positive update and should allow more applicants to meet the health requirements for residence.

The list of medical conditions presumed to impose significant costs and/or demands on New Zealand’s health services has not been changed yet.

5. Sector agreements

New sector agreements to avoid the median wage threshold will be implemented, from October 2022. These are mostly negotiated for two years and allow workers from the following industries to be paid below the median wage:

  1. Care Workers earning at least $26.16 hourly.
  2. Construction Workers earning at least $25 hourly.
  3. Meat Processing Workers earning at least $24 hourly. This is capped at 320 workers over a two year period and will only result in 7 month AEWVs.
  4. Seafood Processing Workers (onshore) earning at least $24 hourly. This is capped at 600 onshore will only result in 7 month AEWVs.
  5. Seafood Processing Workers (sea-based) earning at least $25.20 hourly, with incremental increases. This is capped at 940 and will only result in 12 month AEWVs.
  6. Seasonal Snow and Adventure Tourism Workers earning at least $25 hourly, with incremental increases. These will be issued for 7 months.

There are various jobs classified under these general occupation groupings

Visa duration limitations and stand-down periods can be avoided by increasing the hourly rate at renewal stage to at least the median wage.

6. Job Checks + AEWVs

More than 1100 AEWVs have been granted since the category opened. These are being assessed in ADEPT (INZ’s new online portal) while family members are being processed in the old portal. This is separating family groups and resulting in delays of up to 1 month for dependent visas.

A pragmatic approach is currently being used to assess AEWV and Job Check applications, including approving applications that don’t meet all requirements. We have been advised that this approach will be time-limited, as employers and individuals need time to get used to the new system. It will be interesting to see how this plays out from a consistency of decision-making perspective eg. if INZ was to raise issues with an employment contract that had been previously accepted with multiple job checks.

INZ will be undertaking verification activities when assessing accreditation and AEWV renewal applications. To prepare for this it is critical that commitments that were made with accreditation and AEWV applications are honoured.

7. Samoan Quota and Pacific Access Category

These will open again, from October 2022. Both categories have a quota.

8. Skilled Migrant Residence

We are hopeful that this will be reopened, by the end of 2022.

9. Care Worker Work to Residence pathway

From October 2022, Care Workers earning at level 4 rate will soon have a residence pathway, after working in New Zealand for 24 months.

10. Active Investor Plus category

A new Active Investor Plus category was introduced this month. We will be sending a separate alert on this new visa pathway.

Our thoughts

There continues to be a lot of change in the immigration space and INZ is doing its best to implement the policy decisions of the New Zealand government.

The new 3-step AEWV framework is full of hooks. As a result, it is essential that employers follow the guidelines closely, to avoid processing delays or losing skilled migrants to jurisdictions with more straightforward immigration options. It is our opinion that this new system is unlikely to be changed (significantly) in the next 12 months.

All information in this update is current as at 28 September 2022.

Our experts

If you need help navigating any of these changes our specialist immigration team would be happy to assist.

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