Immigration New Zealand have released a raft of changes, including significant changes to the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC). We have summarised key information in this alert.
Currently, Accredited Employer Work Visas (AEWV) are granted with a maximum validity of 3 years. Holders of AEWVs do not have a time limit on how long they can spend in New Zealand on an AEWV if they are paid above the median wage.
From November 2023 and after the new changes are implemented, AEWVs will be granted with a maximum validity of 5 years. AEWV holders will need to spend 12 months offshore if they do not have a clear pathway to securing residence in New Zealand after they have spent 5 years in New Zealand (this will apply even if an AEWV holder is paid above median wage).
For example, if you are a Butcher or specialist technician holding a 3-year AEWV granted on 1 August 2022 and you do not have a clear pathway to gaining a resident visa in New Zealand in 2025, your next AEWV will only be granted for 2 years. You will need to depart New Zealand for 12 months after holding an AEWV continuously for 5 years.
Currently, the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) does not require employers to hold accreditation status, does not generate interim visas and uses a 180-point system. The last selection from this iteration of the policy will be on 15 August 2023.
After the new iteration of the SMC policy is introduced on 9 October 2023, employers will need to hold accreditation status to support a migrant worker with an SMC application. Workers will need to meet requirements that use a 6-point system and will be provided with interim visas that will allow them to remain in New Zealand until after their SMC application has been processed.
We have summarised key information associated with the proposed 6-point system below:
Our initial thoughts on the new policy is that it will create hurdles and hooks for employers and migrants that do not meet the requirements for applying for residence. Obtaining residence in New Zealand is a key consideration for most migrant workers looking to settle in New Zealand. If applying for a resident visa is not navigated around carefully from the outset of a recruitment campaign or for existing workers (now), employers may not be able to support migrant workers for a further AEWV after a worker has held an AEWV for five years.
In our opinion, it is likely that further changes will be on the horizon. Employers in New Zealand rely on migrant workers for a wide range of roles that fall outside of the new policy, ranging from Chefs, operators of specialist machinery, and specialist technicians to other specialist roles. Workers in these roles may not: hold a bachelor’s qualification, have a pathway to gain occupational registration or have another residence pathway available. These skilled migrants may not have a realistic pathway to remain in New Zealand past five years. Unless there are further policy changes, this could leave many skilled migrant workers and their employers in a difficult position.
We recommend seeking advice to carefully plan the ability of your workforce to remain in New Zealand.
All information in this update is current as at 22 June 2023.
Please get in touch with our experts if you have any questions.