Laurent Lore
Corporate Edition
March 2022
There is a sense that we are turning the corner with COVID-19. True, the case numbers are still enormous and the hospitals are full. However, the attitude both in Government and in society has shifted away from eradicating infection to learning how to live with the virus.

This is important in the immigration context. We now have a timetable for lifting border restrictions, which has recently been sped-up. The imperative has shifted toward reviving the economy. This includes allowing some tourists and students back, and freeing up access to overseas workers.

We don't have much "inside information" on what will happen next. The situation continues to evolve, and we will try to pass on what we know, when we know it. Subscribe to our blog, where we pass on news and opinions which we hope are of value.

Simon Laurent
Hiring from Overseas Now Easier for Some
During the pandemic, the only way employers can bring in offshore staff is to make a case that they are an "other critical worker". The tests for this are stringent, and it is not a very attractive option.

A couple of criteria have loosened up from Monday, 14 March which are related to salaries of at least 1.5 times the median wage, or $40.50 per hour:

  • Applicants being paid over $40.50/hr can get a visa for 12 months instead of 6 months - previously this was reserved for those paid 2 times the median;
  • Employers offering over $40.50/hr no longer need to show that the migrant worker's skills are "not readily obtainable in NZ". They do not have to prove that there is no-one at all in the country with those skills; or that they have no access to such people. Employers must still show that the new hire has "unique experience and technical or specialist skills", which could be through their training, high-end work history or personal attributes (think: famous actor).

If you have a key person in mind who could fit the bill, now is the time to consider applying. The reason is that, from July 2022, all employers wishing to sponsor an overseas worker must have accreditation. The ability to hire without first being accredited will disappear, and we can predict that the "other critical worker" rules will be shut off at the same time, or sooner.
Employer Accreditation - What's Going On?
Good question. We still don't have precise detail on what accreditation requires - even now, the policy has still not been published. As mentioned last time, the schedule looks like this:

  • 5 May 2022: employers can apply to be accredited on an online system which is yet to be rolled out;
  • 3 July 2022: last day to apply for visas under the job-based categories which are to be replaced, including Essential Skills;
  • 4 July 2022: Accredited Employer Work Visa ("AEWV") applications can be filed.

So there is not long to go before the gates open. While we can't give chapter and verse on what you need in order to apply for accreditation, there are a few things to look at in the meantime:

  1. Check if your current migrant staff have the right visas. The visa must either name your company as the employer, or be an open Work Visa which allows them to work for any employer. We run into cases where people have switched jobs and the new employer has not checked what visa the person has. This could open the company up to prosecution, and could bar them from hiring anyone else on a visa in future;
  2. Check when those visas are due to expire. If any will expire before the end of 2022, it might be worthwhile to get them to apply for further visas now. This is especially the case if they run out before July. Processing times are ballooning out so that it makes sense to allow plenty of lead time;
  3. Review your job advertising template. It must now show the minimum and maximum pay rate, and also the number of guaranteed hours of work;
  4. Direct those making hiring decisions in the firm to complete the Employment NZ Learning Modules for Employers;
  5. Build into your onboarding process how migrants can complete the Learning Modules for Employees when they start work, and in working hours.
2021 Resident Visa in Full Swing
Tens of thousands of Resident Visa applications have already been filed via the one-time 2021 Resident Visa scheme. You may have staff who have applied.

It is not safe to assume that these cases will be decided quickly. None of the latest set of applications (from late February 2022 onwards) will start being processed until the end of March. For some people this means that they will need to extend their existing Work Visas while awaiting approval. If they do not, and they become overstayers, their Residence application will be suspended until they get back on a visa - or they leave the country.

Employers have obligations under the Immigration Act to ensure that they know the visa status of their overseas staff, and take steps where necessary to enable their staff to remain in lawful employment. If you are not sure what a particular person may need to do, or if the situation appears complicated, then talk to us.