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In August 2023, the Public Service Commission (the Commission) was appointed to review the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) scheme operation, prompted by concerns that the scheme was potentially misused and exploited by unscrupulous agents or employers.

The Commission's recently published Assurance Review disclosed that several changes made to operational settings under the AEWV scheme failed to achieve their intended objectives. This was due to Immigration New Zealand's (INZ) failure to sufficiently evaluate the risk and impact of speeding up processing times against the increased risk of abuse of the visa system.

The review has also made 10 specific recommendations on reducing the risk of migrant exploitation, developing an integrated compliance and system monitoring model, improving intelligence gathering and resetting the relationship between INZ's senior leaders and frontline staff.

In light of the review's findings, more checks are expected to be implemented following the recommendations outlined in the review report. Consequently, the forthcoming reaccreditation process may be impacted in the following manners:

Application processing time will be longer than the standard timeframes set by INZ

When INZ implemented the AEWV scheme, the visa processing standards were set at:

  • 10 working days for the Employer Accreditation application
  • 10 working days for the Job Check application
  • 20 working days for the Accredited Employer Work Visa application.

However, the current information (February 2024) indicates that the average processing time is as follows:

  • 90% of the Employer Accreditation applications take around 47 weekdays to process
  • 90% of the Job Check applications take 49 weekdays to process
  • 90 % of the Accredited Employer Work Visa applications take 62 weekdays to process

Since reaccreditation requires employers to demonstrate compliance with the declaration commitments made, for example, the completion of employment standards, learning modules and settlement support activities, if more verification activities are required to be carried out, the processing time may take longer than the current processing time. In particular, for those high-risk employers (franchisees and those using triangular employment arrangements), more verification activities may be carried out to minimise migrant exploitation.

More evidence may need to be provided

The AEWV scheme was established as a high-trust model, which means that it heavily relies on the declarations made by employers. Currently, employers are only required to declare that they comply with the specific immigration, employment, and business standards stated in the AEWV scheme. However, in light of the risks identified in the Review Report, it is anticipated that additional documentary evidence may be required in the reaccreditation process to ensure compliance with accreditation requirements.

Accreditation can be revoked if non-compliance is detected

The instructions of AEWV clearly state that if the employer or its key person is being subjected to any active verification, compliance or investigation activities due to potential non-compliance, their accreditation can be suspended for up to three months. In case non-compliance is detected during these verification procedures, the accreditation can be revoked immediately.

Our thoughts

It is expected that revisions to the AEWV scheme will be made based on the review. Specifically, changes will be made to the Employer Accreditation and Job Check applications, which previously relied heavily on employer-declared information for visa processing. This means more evidence will be required to support the accreditation or reaccreditation applications, as well as evidence to demonstrate the need for migrant workers and their ability to support them to restore New Zealanders' trust and confidence in the AEWV scheme and its administration.

We recommend seeking advice to plan for the accreditation or reaccreditation carefully to ensure the company meets all the specific requirements set up by INZ.

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If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact our immigration experts.

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