Laurent Lore
Corporate Edition
December 2022
The main avenue now for recruiting migrant workers is by becoming an Accredited Employer under the scheme opened in May 2022. If you want to hire someone now, it won't happen in a hurry:

  1. Immigration New Zealand is pushing most Accreditation applications through in a couple of weeks, with little scrutiny if the application looks all right on its face;
  2. Job Checks (in most cases, proving the company has advertised properly to local workers first) can take longer and be a more fraught process. Apparently, lots of businesses are tripping up over the fairly strict requirements of this stage. This is spinning approvals out well beyond the claimed 2 - 21 working days claimed by Immigration New Zealand;
  3. Finally, a decision on an actual Work Visa application is meant to take 2 - 5 weeks. In the 4 months from July to October only about 8000 visas were approved. Given that up until 2021 INZ was approving 45-50,000 job-based Work Visas a year, the non-resident labour supply is pretty thin, just at the time when we desperately need people to do lots of jobs.

None of this is helped by INZ's well-publicised IT woes with its new so-called ADEPT system (which it really isn't right now); the introduction and reactivation of multiple new policies; and continued significant churn of visa staff. The latter issue means that one needs to take extra care with applications because visa officers are misapplying the policies they are meant to administer.

Sounds like a challenge? It is, but we're used to it . . .

Simon Laurent
Have Your 3-Gate Game Plan Ready
Supporting people to apply for an Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) is the last step in the 3-stage process. However, industry consensus is that employers must have their end-game in mind even before they start.

First of all, how many migrant workers do you need? While there is currently no difference in the criteria and checks involved in Standard and High-Volume Accreditation, a company with Standard Accreditation must have no more than 5 jobs associated to them at any one time. That is not people on Work Visas, but jobs which could be given to migrant workers. So what positions will they be? If you might need more than 5 places filled in the next few months, maybe you need to go for High Volume at the outset, or risk having to apply again for an upgrade.

The Job Check is particularly challenging. Employers often have someone in mind whom they want to bring in from overseas. The job advertising needs to strike a balance between pitching the criteria high enough to weed out unnecessary jobseekers, but not so high as to exclude the very person who would apply at the end of the day. On the other hand, an employer's attempt to oversell the skills needed to do the job in order to stop locals from even applying risks derailing the Job Check entirely, because INZ will be guided by the minimum skill level indicated by the ANZSCO (more on this below). If the bar is set too high, INZ will say that the advertising was not genuine because it artificially discouraged local applicants.

Even before applying for Accreditation, have as clear a picture as possible of what you need. This may be difficult to predict 3, 6 or 9 months out, but failing to do so could be costly in time, money and frustration.
Work and Residence: A Pitfall to Watch
Many people looking to work in New Zealand want to stay, to have a pathway to Residence. Employers want to keep valuable staff long-term, because of the cost of losing their expertise and of having to hire and train someone else. Offering Residence as a carrot is a definite advantage in the war for talent.

For some jobs in IT, engineering and health, or for jobs paid over $115K, the path is clear-cut through the Skilled Residence route. For the rest there is only the recently reopened Skilled Migrant Category (yes, we know, the names are confusing, but they are different things). Ensuring that someone can qualify for SMC Residence needs to start at the AEWV stage, and it can be tricky to navigate.

One reason is the different ways ANZSCO is used in the AEWV and SMC policies. For a job offer to be acceptable for a Work Visa, the employer's advertising must set out the minimum qualifications or experience required to do the job. To decide what is acceptable, INZ "may refer" to what ANZSCO sets as the minimum (e.g., 3 years' experience); or else assess whether the requirements set out in the advertising are "reasonably necessary" to do the job. This contemplates roles which do not easily fit into one ANZSCO classification.

In many small businesses, people do multiple jobs in their role. It is tempting to create a hybrid position to fit the actual situation. This is an advantage for companies who need to fill a position to solve multiple needs.

When it comes to SMC Residence the focus is much tighter. To score points for employment (which pretty much everyone must do), the job and the skills the migrant brings to it must be a "substantial match" to a single ANZSCO occupation. Someone on a Work Visa for a broad position who later applies for Residence and tries to claim a particular ANZSCO match to that job is likely to hit resistance, not only in claiming points for the job, but also points for the work experience they had already gained while working in New Zealand.

From our experience, such battles are painful, exhausting and time-consuming - and not just for the applicant. Residence could be declined in the end, or the worker might just give up and look for a job in Australia instead.

It therefore makes sense, even before Accreditation stage, to think about what jobs will actually be offered. Will they fit one ANZSCO description? If not, do you need to peg your own expectations and those of candidates back to seeing the Work Visa as a way to be in the country for just 2 or 3 years?

It is hard to give many more general rules about how to answer those sorts of questions. This is where we may be able to take an objective look at your plans to get accredited, and manage your expectations about what can be achieved by bolstering your workforce with overseas people.