Changes benefit employer-assisted temporary work visas

Changes benefit employer-assisted temporary work visas
Jayendran Govindan

Auckland, August 9, 2020

Covid-19 was unexpected.

It has brought about vast economic damage to many a country. To date, there have been more than 17 million infected cases and numerous deaths in the whole world.

New Zealand was not spared either.

Its hospitality and tourism industry has been badly affected.

Strategies to help businesses

This of course has an effect on business and employment, and Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has formulated strategies towards helping businesses and at the same time ensuring that employees are not let down.

Short term changes have been carried out by INZ to temporary work visas due to expire before the end of 2020. These changes will allow employers to maintain their existing workforce and give existing work force an extended period of time while opportunities for New Zealand Citizen and permanent residents their right to work in New Zealand are not negatively impacted.

Immigration have carried out 3 key changes.

Work visas extension

All existing employer-assisted temporary work visas due to expire before the end of 2020 will be extended by six months. Some work visa holders had been given extension up to September 25, 2020 and some were due to expire after July 9. 2020. These also will be extended by six months.

The categories of visas that will be included as employer assisted work visas are (1) Essential Skills (2) Work to Residence (3) Special and skilled work visas for citizens of China, Indonesia, South Korea, Philippines and Vietnam (4) Special category work visas for Japanese Interpreters and Thai Chefs (5)

Work visa granted under Section 61 of the Immigration Act 2009 that specify an employer.

This extension will be a great relief for many employers and employees alike.

There would be certainty in their business to retain existing employees.

The extension will be automatic for most visa holders. This will benefit 16,500 essential skills and work- to-residence visa holders who are in New Zealand. All visa conditions of the original visa will remain the same including the specific occupation, employer and location.

Any person who believes that the visa should have been extended, should contact INZ. In the event an employer wants to employ a migrant in a new role, they must apply for a labour market test. Similarly, if they want to employ a new migrant, they must go through the labour market test.

Lower paid essential skills

Currently, essential skills visa holders at lower skill levels are required to leave New Zealand for 12 months before they are able to apply for another lower paid work.

This is the stand down period of one year.

However, since the six-month extension for temporary work visas is being given to temporary work visa holder, employees on lower paid essential skills work visas are unable to be granted a new essential skills work visa until they have spent 12 months outside New Zealand.

This time-limited change will enable lower paid migrants, who are subject to the stand-down period between August 2020 and end of December 2020 to stay in New Zealand and work for the same employer, same location and same occupation for a further six-month period.

Applications from July 10

This third change will affect all new lower paid essential skill work visa holders applications lodged from July 10, 2020. Applications for essential skill work visas received prior to July 10, 2020, if approved, will be granted 12 months work visa. However, applications for essential work visa after July 10, 2020, if approved, will be for a period of six months.

Therefore, effectively the duration of all new lower paid essential skills work visas will be reduced from 12 months to six months.

Other Ancillary Changes

Pursuant to the changes to employer assisted work visas announced, from July 27, 2020, Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) will no longer be used to determine whether a job is considered higher or lower paid job.

Instead, a simple remuneration threshold will be used. This would mean that work visa applications for jobs that are paid below the median wage, will need a skills match report from the Ministry of Social Development.

The duration of the visa will depend on whether the applicant’s wage would be above or below the national medium wage which currently is $25.50 per hour (The Two-Layer System).

Accordingly, changes have been made to dependants of essential skills work visa holders.

Under this category, those earning above the median wage, can support work or visitor visas for partners and visitor visas or student visas for dependent children.

However, partners of essential skills work visa holders earning below the median wage when in New Zealand can apply for a work visa on their own right.

Essential workforce

It cannot be denied that migrant employees form an essential and formidable work force in New Zealand. This work force must be appreciated by the business community and INZ.

It is hoped that with the changes being implemented, there is certainty in the processing of applications for employer-assisted temporary work visas, particularly at a time of uncertainty on jobs, with Covid-19 lurking around the whole world.

It could be further said that the Two-Layer system (where the wage is above or below the $25.50 per hour), may make it easier for processing applications.

Jayendran Govindan is a Barrister & Solicitor at S J Lawyers Barristers & Solicitors based in Auckland. He was a practicing Advocate and Solicitor in Malaysia. Phone (09) 4880056. Email: The views expressed in the above article are his own and should be treated only as general information. For specific advise, please contact Immigration New Zealand, a Licenced Immigration Advisor or an Immigration Lawyer. Mr Govindan, SJ Lawyers Barristers & Solicitors and Indian Newslink absolve themselves of all liabilities in this connection.

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