Laurent Lore
July 2021

STOP PRESS: Read below about immediate policy changes which have come through today, and which affect tens of thousands of people.
The Government continues to tweak the settings for allowing people through the border, as the COVID-19 situation evolves and it responds to demands for skilled workers and for families to be reunited.

There are too many adjustments for us to list, and some might be out of date by the time you read this edition. We find ourselves in the difficult position of being unable to give clear answers to people who ask "What should I do?"

However, we continue to achieve success across a range of situations which clients present to us. Now, more than ever, navigating through the immigration maze requires agility and creative thinking. This is what we do.

Simon Laurent
LATEST: Work Visa Extensions
In a press release today, the Minister of Immigration announced a relaxation of the rules on job-based Work Visas starting 19 July 2021. Migrant workers who have a job offer paying below the median wage (that is, less than $27 an hour) can apply for a 2-year visa. Currently they can only get 1 year.

It looks like this move was in response to increasing industry pressure to get access to workers in lower-paid jobs, such as hospitality. However, it may have been delayed too long, because the extended closure of the borders has dried up the supply of migrant labour for places like the holiday ski-fields.

Of wider significance is the simplification of the application process for Essential Skills visas generally. If someone already has a Work Visa for a specific job, their employer does not need to advertise that job again when it comes time to renew. This is a welcome change to the nonsensical (and possibly unlawful) requirement to re-advertise someone's own position while they are still working but their visa was running out. They also don't need to supply the same employment agreement with their renewal application, although they ought to get HR to supply a letter confirming that they are still in the same job, and their salary.
Employer Accreditation
Most of the existing Work Visa policies based on a job offer were meant to end on 31 October 2021. In light of the above changes to Essential Skills policy, the rollout has been put back to mid-2021. Still, it is important to know about what the Government has in store for us next year.

A new "3-gate" system is to be introduced. Any employer who wants to hire a migrant must first get some form of accreditation. I provide more detail in a rough summary of the scheme. INZ has also published a Factsheet describing the system. Bear in mind that the timeframes have been pushed back, but the scheme will ultimately be the same - or so we believe at the moment.

What we have been telling people in the last few weeks, is to renew the Work Visa under the existing Essential Skills policy before the Accreditation system kicks in. That advice remains the same, even if the visa is not going to expire until, say, the end of 2022, or even later. Reasons for doing this are:
  • we don't yet have details of what the new rules are, or how they will work;
  • it may take many months for employers to get accredited, as there could be over 20,000 companies who will apply all at once when the application process is finally opened;
  • many companies may not qualify at all.

The pathways for Residence from Work Visas are not clear right now. Apart from Skilled Migrant (new applications are still suspended), Residence based on a Work Visa under the Accreditation scheme is only available for people who are being paid twice the NZ median wage. At present this is about $107,000 p.a., so it is a target out of reach for many migrants on temporary visas.
Medical & Police Certificates - The Movie
Many visa applications for longer-term stays in NZ require people to do a full Immigration Medical, and to get Police Clearance Certificates from their home country and other countries where they have lived for a long time.

Our Senior Solicitor, James Turner, has recently released a popular vlog in which he gives more detail. Hear it from someone who advises people on these processes every day.
Should I Claim Asylum?
Every so often someone asks us if they should apply to be a refugee, as a way of staying in New Zealand. The short answer is that, if you have any other way of staying in this country on a valid visa, then use that, and do not seek asylum.

There are 2 important reasons for this:

  1. To be recognised as a refugee, you must show that there is some defining feature about you which sets you apart from most others, and which attracts danger of serious harm - death, torture or imprisonment, for example. It is a tough test to meet.. People who are simply afraid of conditions at home, such as those from South Africa, but share that fear with the rest of the population, do not qualify.
  2. Once you apply to be a refugee, you can only get visas in order to stay until your claim is decided. If it fails (and many do), then you cannot get any further visa and you must leave New Zealand. Even if you had good grounds to stay in the country in some other way - for instance, through your study or employment - you can no longer use that once your claim is finally denied. It is a one-way street to total success or total failure.

On the other hand, if there is absolutely no other option, and you believe that you can prove that you are at risk of serious harm in your home country, then contact us to discuss. Simon Laurent has represented hundreds of refugee applicants over the years, and can tell you whether you have any chance of succeeding.