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New Employer Accreditation and Work Visa – what you need to know

On July 4, 2022, a new visa process will come into effect for hiring migrants and the new Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) will be introduced.

One of the aspects of the new system is employers must be accredited if they wish to recruit migrant workers on work visas attached to the business, whether this recruitment is performed within New Zealand or outside the country.

The long-standing Essential Skills work visa will discontinue on July 3.

What will this change mean for the recruitment and staffing industry and how can recruiters prepare for the imminent shift?

The Brief Spoke to Aims Global, RCSA New Zealand partner, Chief Executive Officer and Licensed Immigration Adviser Arunima Dhingra to unpack the impacts, both positive and negative, the new AEWV will have on the recruitment and staffing industry.

As we have seen in the last two years, immigration policy changes have been extensive and its expected there are more shifts to come; can you outline what these changes will be?

For the first time, two-thirds of the visa application process responsibility will sit with employers under the new Accredited Employer Work visa (AEWV) system.

The changes coming from the new system, can be viewed in two parts. Some of these changes will apply to onshore and offshore equally, whereas other changes will relate to the border and will not impact migrant workers already in New Zealand.

Let’s delve into this a little further.

1) Accredited Employer Work visa (AEWV) (for both onshore and offshore): July 2022 onwards

From July 4, a new visa process for hiring migrants will take effect while the long-standing work visa – Essential Skills (which has been traditionally used for hiring migrant workers) – will cease to exist from July 3 this year.

A key component of the new visa system is that companies hiring a migrant on an AEWV will need to be accredited and pay at or above the new median wage of $27.76 per hour, unless exceptions apply, whether this recruitment is done from within New Zealand or outside New Zealand.

Accreditation is a check performed by Immigration New Zealand to ensure the employer meets certain specified minimum standards and commitments.

This is a three-gate system:

  • Employer Accreditation - Gate 1

  • Job Check - Gate 2

  • Migrant Check (which leads to the AEWV) - Gate 3

Job Check is the stage at which a Labour Market Test (where applicable) is needed. Through this process, the employer or recruiter advertises for the role to prove that no suitable New Zealanders were available, before offering the role to the migrant worker. Until both gates are completed, the visa cannot be applied for.

Migrant workers who will be earning twice the median wage - $55.52 per hour (or $115,481.60 per year for a 40 hour week) will be able to skip the Labour Market Test and be eligible for a three-year visa.

Recruiters will also be able to recruit and bring offshore migrants into the country under the new AEWV with the employer accreditation process and job check process starting from July. Until July 4, the border exception is the only pathway to bring workers into the country.

Applications for Accreditation for employers open on 23 May and for Job Check open on 20 June.

2) Other Critical Workers: now until July 2022

This is an application for those who are outside New Zealand and need to come to New Zealand to take up a job that meets specific requirements.

Right now, offshore migrants with a job offer of $84,240 a year (1.5 times the current median wage of $27 per hour) are already able to come into New Zealand under the category of Other Critical Worker.

Employees under this category cannot make a visa request themselves. Instead, recruiters or employers need to apply on their behalf. Employers also must be compliant with New Zealand’s Immigration and Employment Law. As stated above, employers do not need to be accredited for this category.

What benefits or challenges do you see coming from these immigration policy changes for the recruitment and staffing industry?

The biggest benefit for the recruitment and staffing industry is that the immigration process is shifting to being employer-led, which gives employers responsibility for two thirds of the process and more control and certainty, as opposed to the previous migrant-led system.

If this new AEWV system is used strategically, employers will be able to use it a lot more effectively for their migrant talent retention and acquisition needs.

Another benefit for employers is the reduced risk of losing staff to a non- accredited business.

The post-pandemic work environment has changed, and employers have been happy with individuals working from home. So, while the employer is undergoing the accreditation and job check process, the overseas employee can work remotely, if the work allows such an arrangement, as there’s no visa required for that. This could also be seen as another benefit.

With the change in the system, confusion may arise. Recruiters require access to information readily to navigate through the complexities of the policies - whether this is through the immigration website or through a robust immigration partner to help communicate the intricacies of the new system.

The recruitment industry may face some logistical challenges with the new AEWV visa coming into play.

When recruiters start the process, employers don’t know if the most suitable person for the role is going to be a New Zealander or a migrant. Therefore, it’s not immediately obvious when and if they will need to start the accreditation process. Delaying it until the migrant gets selected and can submit the visa can elongate the time associated with their arrival into New Zealand.

What issues do you see coming up for the recruitment and staffing industry this year as borders open?

We predict a few issues arising in the recruitment sector as the borders open.

The main challenge with the new Accredited Employer Work Visa is recruiters won’t be able to do their jobs until the employers are accredited when it comes to placing migrant workers. Unlike before, you won’t be able to simply hire someone and place them with an employer.

Another challenge lies in convincing migrants and their families to relocate to New Zealand without any definitive pathways to residence. Whilst we know of these upcoming changes, pathways for residence for these migrant workers who will come into New Zealand through the border exception or via the AEWV have still not been announced by the Government.

As a recruiter you need to ask yourself: How are we promoting New Zealand as a temporary destination until the government announces pathways to residency? Or is it a challenge at all?

For members or individual recruiters looking to understand, prepare and adapt to the imminent changes of the immigration policy, what advice would you give them?

Aims Global’s advice for recruiters is to educate yourself on the big immigration changes and communicate them clearly to the client and the candidate. However, whilst you do this, be careful not to unknowingly provide immigration advice.

Recruiters and Human Resources teams will need to work closely together in this new three-gate visa application process.

About Arunima Dhingra: Arunima is an established Licensed Immigration Adviser in New Zealand. As the Founder and Director of Aims Global, she has been providing immigration advice and support to businesses and migrants for over 16 years. In 2017 she won NZAMI’s prestigious Immigration Adviser/Lawyer of the Year Award as well as the Community Outreach Award. For the last few years, Arunima has been serving as a Board Director for NZAMI - NZ’s largest association of immigration advisers and lawyers - and is also Chairing the Policy Committee for the association for the third year.

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