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Disastrous changes to Immigration NZ employer assisted work visas.

Disastrous changes to Immigration NZ employer assisted work visas.

Posted on 7th May 2021 by Russell Phillips

Immigration Law

Written by Vanessa Godbaz, Automotive Employment NZ’s Licensed immigration Adviser with employment content provided by Russell Phillips, Director



Just one single visa replaces the 6 former visas.


Changes announced today by Immigration NZ spell disaster for employers already struggling to fill skills shortages. Even before these changes were announced today Automotive Employment NZ had experienced a 240% increase in the volume of job listings compared to 2019. The market is severely limited in terms of candidate availability.

The changes to employer assisted work visas are the most aggressive yet, all but killing the golden goose in the opinion of the consulting team from an employment perspective.

For employers attempting to find a pathway to residency for skilled migrants through the temporary work visa the threshold has increased to double the median wage. The median wage is 25.50 per hour. Based on a 40-hour week this means employers would have to pay skilled migrants a salary based on 40 hours of $106,080 to find a pathway to residency through the new visa.


Immigration advisers are now busy trying to find a pathway for skilled migrants. There is some hope the skilled migrant category (SMC) may still hold a pathway to residency for those who can claim the 160 points under the SMC. This said even the SMC is soon to have an overhaul. It is yet unknown whether the door will be slammed closed or whether common sense will prevail allowing the genuinely skilled a pathway to residency. Right now, Immigration NZ are not processing expressions of interest for residency and there is a massive backlog of some 14 months for those who have applied for residency awaiting approval.

Furthermore, Immigration NZ has further suspended the processing of temporary work visas for offshore migrants except for essential workers for another 3 months due to Covid-19.

Following is a summary of the changes made by Immigration today in the Immigration NZ webinar:


New application process

The new Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) application process will be employer led. Before hiring a migrant on the AEWV employers will need to:

·         apply for accreditation under the new system

·         apply for a job check to make sure the role they want to fill cannot be done by New Zealanders, and

·         request a migrant worker to apply for a visa.

The migrant will need to meet the skills and experience stipulated as part of the job check.

Single visa replaces 6

The AEWV replaces these 6 work visas:

·         Essential Skills Work Visa

·         Essential Skills Work Visa — approved in principle

·         Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa

·         Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa

·         Silver Fern Job Search Visa (closed 7 October 2019)

·         Silver Fern Practical Experience Visa.

New system has 3 checks

The system will introduce 3 checks before an employer can hire a migrant worker. These checks are:

·         the employer check — employers need accreditation to pass this

·         the job check

·         the migrant worker check.

·         Employer check

The employer check will replace 3 current employer schemes:

·         approval in principle (AIP) before an employer hires workers on an Essential Skills Work Visa

·         Accreditation as a Talent Accredited Employer, and

·         Labour Hire employers' accreditation for essential skills work visas.

To pass the employer check you need accreditation in the new system. Only accredited employers can hire a migrant worker on the AEWV.

The new accreditation levels are:

·         standard accreditation — for employers who want to have up to 5 migrant workers on AEWVs at any one time

·         high-volume accreditation — for employers who want to have 6 or more migrant workers on AEWVs at any one time.

Franchisees and employers wanting to place migrants on AEWVs with third parties (including labour hire companies) will need to meet additional criteria to get accredited.

Job check

The job check will confirm the job pays the market rate, the terms and conditions comply with our employment laws, and you have done a labour market test if you need to. 

A labour market test shows you have genuinely advertised the role to New Zealanders and there are no New Zealanders available to do the job. For jobs paying below the median wage, the labour market test includes checking with the Ministry of Social Development.

Jobs paying 200 % of the median wage do not need a labour market test. Jobs paying at, or above, the median wage in regions also do not need a labour market test. In cities, jobs that are on a skills shortage list and pay at, or above, the median wage don’t need a labour market test.

You can only hire a migrant worker if the job check is passed. Employers pay for a job check.


More information on the specific advertising requirements, jobseeker engagement and confirmation of the different region and city settings will be available in June or July 2021.

Current labour market test requirements continue to apply for essential skills visa applications.

Sector agreements

Some industries hire large numbers of migrant workers — sector agreements may be negotiated with them. Agreements will include a workforce plan and conditions on recruiting a temporary migrant worker for specific occupations in the sector.


Introduction of sector agreements has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

AEWV migrant worker check

The migrant worker check is where the migrant worker applies for a visa. It is the last step in the AEWV process. The migrant worker must show they meet INZ’s character, identity and health requirements, and meet the skills and experience stipulated as part of the employer’s job check application.

Migrant workers or employers pay for this check.

Further information on fees will be announced when they are finalised later in 2021.

When to apply for accreditation

Employers will be able to apply for accreditation from late September, ahead of the 1 November 2021 introduction date.

Employers accredited under the current system will need to apply and meet the policy requirements of the new accreditation system.

Employers only need to be accredited under the new system when they want to start hiring migrants on AEWVs.

Employers don’t need to be accredited in the new system by 1 November 2021 if they do not plan to start hiring migrants on AEWVs at this time.

Businesses employing migrants who hold a current talent or essential skill visa don’t need to become accredited until they want to hire someone on the new visa.

Transitioning to the new accreditation system

The following employer policies are closing to new and renewing applications on 30 June 2021:

·         Accredited Employer (Talent – Accredited Employer)

·         Labour Hire Accreditation (Essential Skills)

·         Approval in Principle (Essential Skills) – this does not include approval in principle for other policies including AIP for foreign crew of fishing vessels.

Employers will still be able to support work visa applications under the Essential Skills work visa category up until 31 October 2021.

Employers who only want to hire migrants using the new AEWV should wait and apply under the new accreditation system.

Employers accredited under the current system must apply and meet the policy requirements of the new accreditation system.

In between the existing Labour Hire Accreditation closing and the new accreditation policy being implemented, Labour Hire Accreditation will not be mandatory for labour hire employers supporting Essential Skills Work Visas for jobs in the construction industry in the Canterbury region.

What migrants workers need to know

In November 2021 6 temporary work visas will be replaced by the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV).

The new visa process is led by the employer offering the job. Your potential employer must complete the employer accreditation and job check before you apply for a work visa.

If you have a current temporary work visa you will not be affected as long as you are meeting your visa conditions and your visa remains valid.

If you have a Residence from Work visa application underway (requiring a further Work to Residence visa to be granted residence), you will be able to continue this process if you remain with your employer.

The changes to accredited employer work visas will not affect other work visas holders.

Temporary work visas not affected

The following temporary work visas will not be changed by the new visa system:

·         Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Limited Visa

·         Working holiday schemes

·         Post-study Work Visa

·         Fishing Crew Work Visa

·         Religious Worker Work Visa

·         Specific Purpose Work Visa

·         partnership work visas including Partner of a Worker Work Visa, Partner of a New Zealander Work Visa and Partner of a Student Work Visa

·         work visas granted for international or humanitarian reasons, such as domestic staff of diplomats, consular and official staff, and for refugee or protection status claimants.

Policies continued

People who hold visas based on work paid below the median wage will still have to leave New Zealand for a 1-year stand down period after they have been working for 3 years.


The stand down period policy is currently suspended until 1 January 2022.

The new visa will still have conditions specifying an employer, job and location. To change any of these the visa holder will still have to get a variation of conditions or apply for a new visa.

Current work visas remain valid until their expiry date if all employment conditions are met.

Progress so far

The Talent (Accredited Employer) work visa salary threshold is now 150% of the median wage (NZD $79,560).

The threshold for determining the conditions of an Essential Skills Work Visa is now the median wage.


Timeframes for providing further information are dependent on policy decisions and disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.


May-November 2021
Webinars for employers will be advertised later in 2021.

Job Check and migrant check

June-July 2021
Further information about Job Check and migrant check requirements.

Fees confirmed

August 2021
Fees for checks will be confirmed.

Applications process opens

Late-September 2021
Employers will be able to start the application process for accreditation for the AEWV from late September before it is introduced on 1 November.

Accredited Employer Work Visa becomes mandatory

1 November 2021
Full AEWV policy goes live.


It is recommended those employers or employees who feel they could be impacted by the changes contact Automotive Employment NZ’s licensed immigration adviser for an inexpensive 30-minute consultation. Enquiries to