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The Abandonment of the new visa framework

The NZ Minister of Immigration has today announced the abandonment of the new Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) framework and associated mandatory accreditation standards that were due to come into effect on 1 November 2021.

Despite the excess in time and effort spent by Immigration New Zealand from hosting webinars and conducting employer roadshows to developing policy, processes, and a new online system to support the framework, the government has decided to defer the introduction of the new framework for the remainder of the year, with indications it may go ahead in mid-2022.

This may come as a relief to many employers who will now be afforded some breathing room from the requirements to obtain accreditation in order to support migrant employees.  However, it will also no doubt be frustrating for those employers who heeded Immigration New Zealand’s advice to not become Accredited or withdraw new or renewal Accreditation applications under the existing policy on the basis these would not be necessary or of limited value (in that they were due to cease on 31 October 2021 regardless of when issued).

Those employers who did get Accreditation before applications closed on 30 June 2021, or who hold Accreditation that remains valid for some time will be pleased their efforts were not wasted.  These employers will continue to be able to leverage the Work to Residence (Talent) visa pathway for as long as their Accreditation Certificate remains valid and until such time as the new framework is resurrected and implemented.

With the abandonment of the new framework, comes a pause to the government’s intention to replace six existing work visa streams, including the Talent (Accredited Employer) Work visa, the Long-Term Skill Shortage List (LTSSL) Work visa and the Essential Skills Work visa.  These visa categories will remain valid, and migrants can continue to apply for visas under these categories until at least mid-2022.

Approval in Principle, Labour Hire Accreditation and Talent Accreditation applications remain closed and there is no intention to reopen these categories at this time.

Loosening up of Essential Skills Requirements

The Minister also announced today a loosening up of Essential Skills requirements, effective Monday, 19 July 2021.  Specifically, those individuals on Essential Skills who apply for an Essential Skills work visa on the basis of no changes to their employer, role or location of employment will be eligible for the grant of a minimum 24-month visa, regardless of their remuneration level, and will not be subject to Labour Market testing requirements.  Those applicants who do earn at or above median wage ($27 from Monday 19 July) will remain eligible for a 36-month visa. Open work visa and Student Visa holders with valid work rights are also expected to benefit from this change.

Individuals who meet certain requirements will also not be required to produce a police or medical certificate, or a copy of their employment agreement to Immigration New Zealand in support of their Essential Skills work visa application assuming they have submitted these documents to Immigration New Zealand at some time in the past and there have been no changes to their terms of employment, standard of health or character since that date.

Note that those people who are applying for a first time Essential Skills work visa will mostly likely need to provide an employment contract and potentially a medical and police certificate given they unlikely to have provided these earlier to Immigration New Zealand.  However, those already on an Essential Skills work visa, who have not changed their employment, will benefit from this dispensation.

There are currently approximately 57,000 people in New Zealand on Essential Skills Work visas. It is expected approximately 19,000 will benefit from this new leniency in policy.

It is important to note; however, that the same leniency is not currently afforded to an applicant’s dependent partner or children who will need to continue to meet the medical and police certificate requirements of existing policy.

Border Restrictions

Border restrictions remain in place and are likely to continue for some time and to at least February 2022.

The government continues to review border settings to determine if and when groups of migrants may be able to travel to New Zealand.  From Monday, 12 July, up to 300 Early Childhood and primary/secondary teachers and their families will be able to apply for a border exception to enter New Zealand despite the current border closure.  This is the latest of ongoing changes to border settings and we are likely to see a slow broadening of the exception categories as time and New Zealand’s vaccine programme progresses.

If your employee or their family are offshore and wish to travel to New Zealand, we recommend regularly reviewing the border settings to keep up to date with any changes.

Lapsed Temporary Applications

The Minister of Immigration has made the decision to ‘lapse’ certain visa applications that have been submitted for processing but cannot be approved due to New Zealand’s ongoing border restrictions.

As a result, many offshore visa applicants, including family of some temporary visa holders in New Zealand, have been lapsed.  This impacts approximately 50,000 visa applicants.

A ‘lapsed’ application is not considered a decline and so it will not impact any future applications that an individual makes, nor does it need to be declared in any future applications.  However, it still comes as disappointing news to many who have waited over 12 months for a decision to be reached on their visa application and travel to New Zealand.

If you know anybody in this situation who are still wanting to come to New Zealand, they will need to submit a new visa application once our borders re-open, and Immigration New Zealand start to process temporary applications again.  For now, such applications and processing have been further suspended until 6 February 2022.

Skilled Migrant Residence Category

Selection of Expressions of Interest under the Skilled Migrant Category remain suspended.  However, indications are that the updated policy has been signed off by the Minister and, whilst an initial planned reopening of selections next month no longer seems viable due to delays within Immigration New Zealand, it is a positive sign that we are edging closer to the reopening.

Much has been said in the media and on social media on the Skilled Migrant category with some speculating the category will remain closed for another year or, in some cases, indefinitely.  We do not believe this to be the case, but it is possible that while Immigration New Zealand work to reduce the current Residence applications on hand, a delay in the reopening of the category is likely to be seen for at least the next couple of months.

Some employees may be concerned about their future and the changing nature of immigration policy.  Encourage employees to not be panicked by, in many cases, misleading information on social media and news platforms.

If you would like to discuss the Minister’s latest announcement in greater detail and how it may impact your business and employees, or have any questions on the updates provided, please do not hesitate to contact us.

DISCLAIMER This information is current as of date of publication and subject to change. The information contained in this publication is of a general nature only. It should not be used as legal advice. To the extent permissible by law, Ajuria Lawyers and its associated entities shall not be liable for any errors, omissions, defects or misrepresentations in the information or for any loss or damage suffered by persons who use or rely on such information. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

Have more specific questions about your visa? Get in touch with Ajuria Lawyers today.

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Author Karen Justice

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