The Government is increasing the duration of some Essential Skills visas and streamlining the application process to provide more certainty to employers and visa holders while COVID border restrictions remain in place.
“We recognise the ongoing labour demand pressures faced by some sectors and we want to make the most of the skills we have in the country. So the Government is making it easier for businesses to continue employing their current migrant workers,” Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi said
From Monday 19 July, the maximum duration of Essential Skills visas, for jobs paid below the median wage, will increase from 12 months to 24 months. The maximum duration of Essential Skills visas for jobs paid above the median wage is already three years.
The application process for Essential Skills visas will also be simplified for workers remaining in their current roles.
Employers won’t be required to complete a labour market test where a worker is applying for a visa for a full time role which the worker already holds. These applicants also won’t need to provide medical and police certificates to Immigration New Zealand if that information has been supplied previously.
A labour market test will still be required where employers are filling a job vacancy to prove there are no New Zealanders available before a migrant worker can be hired. This is in line with the Government’s objective to ensure Kiwis are prioritised for jobs.
“These changes complement the recent extension we granted for around 10,000 Working Holiday and Supplementary Seasonal Employment visa holders,” Kris Faafoi said.
“The Government is listening to business concerns,” said Tourism Minister, Stuart Nash.
“COVID support previously rolled out to businesses has been designed to keep workers connected to employers and keep tourism businesses operating while international borders are closed. The decision to extend Essential Skills visas and simplify application processes is the next step, and will be welcomed by sectors like tourism and hospitality where employers are keen to retain their current migrant workers,” Stuart Nash said.
The Agriculture Minister, Damien O’Connor, said the changes acknowledged feedback he had been getting from the primary sector where employers were desperate to hang onto migrant staff, like dairy farm managers, who had often worked for the same employer for several years on an Essential Skills visa.
“I want to thank the farming leadership that has been working with the government on these changes.
“This will provide welcome certainty for those farmers and farm workers, and adds to the recent border exception to bring in 200 migrant dairy farm workers and their families,” Damien O’Connor said.
The Immigration Minister said these Essential Skills visa changes would be temporary measures to support employers in the unique COVID-19 situation and were part of the Government’s ongoing review of border settings to balance New Zealand’s economic needs with the successful COVID health response that has kept the virus out of our communities.
“Our long-term vision for immigration settings is to grow talent here in New Zealand and build a more self-reliant labour market. The Government’s $320 million targeted investment for free trades training, which has helped just over 144,000 people into training in the past year, is part of that vision,” Kris Faafoi said.
“We want to work with sectors and seem them develop plans to attract, train and upskill Kiwis into roles, and invest in productivity changes that can help them move away from a reliance on low-paid and low-skilled migrant workers. Many sectors and employers are already looking at how to make those shifts as a result of COVID pressure on the supply of workers,” Kris Faafoi said.
Extending Essential Skills visas to last two years means the new Accredited Employer Work Visa, which was due to come into effect on 1 November, will be delayed until the middle of next year. An update will be provided as soon as an exact date is confirmed.
“The Government remains committed to the Accredited Employer Work Visa, which will ensure work visas issued reflect genuine regional skill shortages and strengthen labour market testing. However, we expect most Essential Skills visa holders will apply for this two-year visa, meaning the implementation of the Accredited Employer Work scheme would not be viable because of likely low uptake.
“Employers will be kept updated on any further changes and more detailed guidance on the new system ahead of the introduction of the Accredited Employer Work Visa next year,” Kris Faafoi said.
Changes to onshore visas will provide employers and visa holders with more certainty, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has announced.
Around 10,000 Working Holiday visas and Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) work visas due to expire between 21 June 2021 and 31 December 2021 will be extended for another six months to help manage ongoing labour shortages while New Zealand’s COVID-19 border restrictions remain in place.
SSE visa holders will also be given open work rights, allowing them to work in any sector.
“This will provide employers with an assurance that they can continue to access the current onshore workforce to help fill roles.
“It will also put the minds of visa holders at ease knowing they can stay and work in New Zealand for the foreseeable future,” Kris Faafoi said.
“We will continue to monitor the border and labour market situations and will extend these visas again if necessary.”
Essential Skills work visas will not be extended again, but the duration of Essential Skills visas for jobs paid below the median wage will increase from six to 12 months taking them back to pre-COVID settings. The implementation of the stand-down period for these jobs will also be further postponed until July 2022.
“These changes will provide more certainty to workers and their employers that workers whose skills are still needed can remain in New Zealand, subject to labour market testing to prove there are no New Zealanders available to fill the role if an employer wants to support a work visa application,” Kris Faafoi said.
“The visa extensions and deferral of the stand-down period are temporary measures and reflect the Government’s commitment to support employers and sectors facing workforce shortages while our border restrictions remain in place.
“This approach is in line with the overall objective of new temporary work visa reforms that are designed to ensure New Zealanders are prioritised for work opportunities.”
Alongside these changes to Essential Skills work visas, from 19 July, visa applications will be assessed against the updated median hourly wage rate of $27. This pay rate will determine whether jobs are treated as higher or lower paid. The wage rate was set following public consultation.
Employers paying under the median wage can still access migrant workers but will need to check with the Ministry of Social Development to see whether a registered job seeker is available.
“The Government recently outlined our long-term vision for New Zealand’s immigration system which will involve sectors making a managed transition to new ways of attracting, training and upskilling Kiwis into jobs and investing in productivity measures that will support New Zealand’s COVID-19 recovery.
“We encourage sectors and employers to think about how to make this shift and look for ways to recruit New Zealanders before turning to temporary migrant workers,” Kris Faafoi said.
Immigration New Zealand will contact all visa holders eligible for the Working Holiday or SSE visa extension by 25 June 2021.
For professional advice regarding your personal situation and how these changes may affect you, book a consultation with one of our licensed advisers today - https://www.easyvisa.co.nz/book-an-appointment.html
A major shakeup to the New Zealand Temporary Work Visa category is quickly approaching and employers and employees need to be ready.
Immigration New Zealand have confirmed that they plan to introduce a new Accredited Employer Work Visa effective from 1st November 2021. This new visa will replace 6 different existing work visas. Their intention is to streamline the work visa category and to ensure that employers are using migrant workers to fill genuine and high skill needs.
The following work visas will be replaced on November 1st 2021:
If you are an employer who currently employs migrant workers or intends to employ migrant workers in the future, then you must now apply for accreditation to do so. Employers will be able to apply for accreditation from the 1st September ready for the November 1st start date.
If you are an employer and need help applying for accreditation, or you are an employee and are not sure how the changes will impact you then make an appointment today to speak to one of our licensed immigration advisers.
Click here to book an appointment today.
From 17 May, you can travel between New Zealand and the Cook Islands without having to go into managed isolation or self-isolation when you arrive. This is called quarantine-free travel.
Anyone in New Zealand can travel quarantine-free to the Cook Islands, as long as they meet the eligibility criteria and immigration requirements.
You can visit each country for any length of time and you do not need to stay for 14 days before you return.
You can travel to the outer islands after you arrive in Rarotonga. You do not need to self-isolate in Rarotonga before you continue your journey to the outer islands.
Quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and the Cook Islands does not include Australia. You must spend 14 full days in New Zealand before you can continue your journey through to the Cook Islands or Australia.
Quarantine-free travel is available on commercial aircraft only.
New Zealand’s successful management of COVID means quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia will start on Monday 19 April, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed the conditions for starting to open up quarantine free travel with Australia have been met.
“The Director-General of Health considers the risk of transmission of COVID-19 from Australia to New Zealand is low and that quarantine free travel is safe to commence,” Jacinda Ardern said.
“Our team’s success in managing COVID-19 and keeping it out over the past 12 months now opens up the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones and resume Trans-Tasman travel.
“One sacrifice that has been particularly hard for many to bear over the past year has been the separation from friends and family who live in Australia, so today’s announcement will be a great relief for many.
“The bubble will give our economic recovery a boost and represents a world leading arrangement of safely opening up international travel while continuing to pursue a strategy of elimination and keeping the virus out.
“We have worked hard to ensure travel is safe and that the necessary public health measures are in place.
“Quarantine free travel will not be what it was pre-COVID-19, and those undertaking travel will do so under the guidance of ‘flyer beware’. People will need to plan for the possibility of having travel disrupted if there is an outbreak.
“Just as we have our alert level settings for managing cases in New Zealand, we will also now have a framework for managing New Zealanders in the event of an outbreak in Australia, which involves three possible scenarios: continue, pause, suspend,” Jacinda Ardern said.
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said to ensure New Zealand remains on top of COVID-19, the Government has added further layers to manage risk at the border.
“To be eligible to travel to or from New Zealand on a quarantine-free flight, people must not have had a positive COVID-19 test result in the previous 14-day period and must not be awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test taken during that period,” Chris Hipkins said.
“When those in Australia decide to come to New Zealand, they will be making a booking on a green zone flight. That means that there will be no passengers on that flight who have come from anywhere but Australia in the last 14 days. They will also be flown by crew who have not flown on any high risk routes for a set period of time.
“Passengers will need to provide comprehensive information on how they can be contacted while in New Zealand, complete a pre-departure health declaration and won’t be able to travel if they have cold or flu symptoms.
“When they fly, they will be required to wear a mask on their flight, and will also be asked to download and use the NZ COVID Tracer app while in New Zealand.
“On arrival, passengers will be taken through what we call the green zones at the airport – meaning there will be no contact with those who are arriving from other parts of the world and going into managed isolation or quarantine.
“We will also be undertaking random temperature checks of those arriving as an added precaution.
“Final infection control audits for airports in particular are occurring over the next two weeks and are a requirement for each airport to operate. The Ministry of Health expects to have completed these and to have reported on them on 16 April.”
Chris Hipkins said it is estimated the bubble will free up 1,000 to 1,300 rooms per fortnight within MIQ.
“Of these, we will retain roughly 500 spaces as contingency should they be needed for the Trans-Tasman arrangement.
“We also have a small number of facilities that we consider to have only been suitable for travelers in quarantine from low risk countries. With the opening of travel, we will look to decommission these facilities – but in the meantime we are considering whether they could be used for other low risk countries, such as the Pacific Islands.
“As a result of this, we do not anticipate a large number of vacant quarantine spaces to come on stream. There will, however, still be thousands of spaces in MIQ for Kiwis. That’s how we have helped 130,000 safely return home through our managed isolation facilities.”
The Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has today announced visa extensions and rule changes for some Visitor Visa holders:
Visitor visa holders will be able to stay in New Zealand a little longer as the Government eases restrictions for those still here, the Minister of Immigration has announced.
“The Government recognises that some visitor visa holders are keen to stay in New Zealand longer while the COVID-19 pandemic is still attacking communities in their home countries,” Kris Faafoi said.
“We have also listened to New Zealand’s business sector, including tourism ventures, which say foreign visitors who are still here can help our local economies.
“So, where people are here on visitor visas which expire on or before 31 March 2021, the Government will allow their visitor visas to be automatically extended by two months. During that two month extension, which will be applied from the date of expiry on their current visa, they will need to apply for a new visa to stay longer,” Kris Faafoi said.
The automatic extension will apply to around 12,500 visa holders.
The extension does not apply to visitors on the special Covid-19 short term two-month visitor visa, which was introduced in September last year.
In a second temporary change to immigration settings, the Government has agreed to temporarily waive a rule which states that visitor visa holders can only be in New Zealand for nine months out of an 18 month period.
“Most visa holders currently in New Zealand will have been here for more than nine months by now, which would have excluded them from applying for another visitor visa.
“Waiving this nine months of 18 rule means that visa holders who are still here can apply for a further six-month visa.
“While applicants with visitor visas expiring after 31 March 2021 won’t be eligible for the automatic two-month extension, they can still apply for a new visa that gives them exemption from the nine months of 18 rule if they apply for their new visa before 30 June 2021. That is because the temporary waiver of that nine months of 18 rule will end on 30 June 2021.
“Applicants will still need to meet all other requirements for a visitor visa, including proof that they have enough funds to support themselves in New Zealand, as well as pay for their travel home at the end of their stay,” Kris Faafoi said.
“While we have made these changes to help many visitors facing uncertain and worrying situations back in their home countries because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government wants to make clear that people who are here on visitor visas are here as guests for a limited time. We cannot guarantee further extensions or waivers when these changes expire,” Kris Faafoi said.
He pointed out that the Government expects all migrants in New Zealand to ensure they are here lawfully and are able to support themselves.
“Temporary migrants who are in New Zealand without the means to support themselves, or who become unlawful, are at risk of migrant exploitation or not being able to meet their basic needs. Migrants who stay here after their visas have expired also risk having their unlawful status count against them should they wish to travel to New Zealand or elsewhere in the world in the future,” Kris Faafoi warned.
Immigration New Zealand will email affected visa holders to confirm the visa extension by 5 March 2021.
The Government has announced visa changes to allow temporary migrant workers in New Zealand to continue to fill labour shortages. Employers are still expected to genuinely seek to fill job vacancies with New Zealanders.
Employer-assisted work visas extended by 6 months
Employer-assisted visas expiring from 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021 (inclusive) will be automatically extended by another 6 months. This applies to the following visas:
Visas held by their partners and dependent children will also be extended.
Visa holders will receive confirmation of the extension from Immigration New Zealand by March 2021.
Lower-paid Essential Skills visa stand-down delayed for 12 months
The introduction of the stand-down period will be delayed until January 2022. The stand-down period means that Essential Skills visa holders earning less than the median wage must leave New Zealand after three years for one year before they can return.
Working Holiday Visas extended by 6 months
Working Holiday Visas that expire from 21 December 2020 to 30 June 2021 (inclusive) will be extended for 6 months. Conditions will be varied to allow the holders to continue in any employment that is not permanent in any sector until their visa expires. Any time limit on total work for one employer will no longer apply.
From 21 December 2020, Working Holiday Visa holders will no longer be transferred to the Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) work visa when their Working Holiday visa expires. Migrant workers already on an SSE Visa can still choose to work in the horticulture and viticulture sectors, or apply for an Essential Skills visa if they find alternate qualifying work.
2019 median wage in effect until July 2021
Immigration New Zealand will continue to use the 2019 median wage of $25.50 to determine visa conditions until at least July 2021, at which point it will rise to $27 an hour.
Immigration New Zealand
Who is getting a visa extension?
Onshore employer assisted work visa holders (and their partners and dependent children) whose visas are expiring between 1 January and 30 June 2021 will have their visa automatically extended by another six months.
The following types of work visas will be extended:
From 21 December 2020, Working Holiday visa holders will no longer be transferred onto a Supplementary Seasonal Employer (SSE) work visa when their Working Holiday visa expires. Migrants already on an SSE visa will remain able to work for the horticulture and viticulture sectors, or apply for an Essential Skills visa if they find alternate qualifying work.
Why will Working Holiday visas no longer be transferred to the Supplementary Seasonal Employer work visa?
New Zealand is faced with a labour shortage across many industries. Working Holiday visa holders can and do still choose to work for the horticulture industry. Migrants already on an SSE visa will remain able to work for the horticulture and viticulture sectors, or apply for an Essential Skills visa if they find alternate qualifying work.
What about migrants who have lost their job already? Will their visa still be extended?
Any migrants who are unable to meet the conditions of their visa should make arrangements to depart New Zealand or apply for a new visa that best suits their circumstances.
Can a person leave and then come back on their extended visa?
The purpose of the visa extension is to provide short-term certainty to employers and migrant workers in New Zealand. If a person leaves New Zealand they will be subject to the current border restrictions and it is unlikely they will be able to return on their extended visa.
Can I still apply for a Variation of Conditions to change employer or roles if my visa has been extended?
Yes, people whose visa has been extended can still apply for a Variation of Conditions. They will still be required to meet the relevant immigration instructions to be granted a Variation of Conditions.
When will people be notified?
INZ will be emailing people who are identified as eligible for the visa extension during December 2020.
A second email will be sent by March 2021 once the visa records are updated in our systems. It is expected that migrants who have had their visa extended will be notified via email.
When and how will I be notified of my extension?
INZ will be contacting eligible visa holders to inform them of the visa extension. A second email will be sent by March 2021 to confirm the visa extension in the system. We will use the most recent email address that you provided to us.
If you did not receive an email it may be because we do not have your current email address. Please check all your email inboxes, including the spam in case it is there.
From March 2021 you can confirm your visa expiry date by checking the Visa Verification Service on our website. Employers can use Visaview to ensure employees have the right to work in New Zealand. Please note these details may not be up to date before March 2021. We are working to update all records as soon as possible.
I am on an Essential Skills visa and have lost my current job (made redundant). Can I get a Variation of Conditions as part of this automatic six month visa extension?
Visa conditions that require the visa holder to work in a specified occupation and for a specified employer remain in place under the extension. Any migrants who are unable to meet the conditions of their current visa, including migrants who have lost their jobs, should make arrangements to depart New Zealand or apply for a new visa that best suits their circumstances. This may include applying for a Variation of Conditions.
I lodged my application before the extensions were announced, and my work visa expires between 1 January and 30 June 2020. If that application gets declined will I still receive the extension for 6 months?
Yes, the visa extension is automatic for most employer assisted work visa holders and will be applied for six months from the original visa expiry date. Even if your application for a new visa is declined, the extension will remain in place.
I employ a working holidaymaker who has a visa condition that they can only work 3 months for any one employer. Does the extension mean they can continue to work for me even if they exceed the 3 months?
Yes, along with the visa extension, work restrictions on Working Holiday visas will be loosened to allow the visa holder to continue work in any employment except permanent employment until the new expiry date of their visa. Any time limit on total work or for one employer will no longer apply. Working holidaymakers still cannot take permanent employment so if you wish to offer this, they must apply for an appropriate work visa.
My working holiday visa states I can only work for 12 months in total and 6 months for one employer. Does the extension allow me to work in excess of this limit?
Yes, along with the visa extension work restrictions on Working Holiday visas will be loosened so you can choose to take on temporary work for any employer or in any industry until the new expiry date of your visa. The condition that you cannot take permanent employment on a working holiday visa still applies.
What about individuals on interim visas?
Interim visas are not automatically extended as part of this policy.
Can I get a refund if I have already submitted a new visa application but now have an extension?
Information about refunds is on the INZ website.
Why is the stand down period being delayed?
To provide certainty for employers in retaining their staff for longer during the response to COVID-19, even if their employee would have been subject to the stand-down period.
Why is INZ delaying increasing the median wage?
Statistics NZ has updated the median wage from $25.50 to $27.00. This 5.8% increase is unusually high and significant, due to some lower-paid roles dropping out of employment. INZ is delaying increasing the median wage that we use to assess applications until at least July 2021 to temporarily ease pressure on employers.
Immigration Implements Changes To Help Businesses Struggling To Find Hospitality Staff In The Queenstown Lake District
In recognition of the struggles some hospitality businesses in the Queenstown lakes District are currently facing in sourcing staff, an update to the undersupply list that Immigration New Zealand (INZ) used to help assess Essential Skill Work visa applications comes into effect from December 1st.
The following positions have been added to the undersupply list for the region provided to INZ by the Ministry of Social Development:
These changes are aimed at helping businesses support applications for roles that pay less than the median wage threshold of $25.50 per hour (this threshold was due to be reviewed in November so may change). Employers will still be required to demonstrate that they have made genuine attempts to find available New Zealanders to fill the vacancies.
If you are an employer looking to support an application or an individual looking to apply for a visa and want professional advice regarding your situation and how these changes could affect you, then book an appointment today to speak with our Licensed Immigration Adviser here: https://www.easyvisa.co.nz/book-an-appointment.html
The Minister of Immigration has increased the length of time visitors can study here without needing to apply for a ‘variation of conditions’ to their visa or a student visa.
People who held a valid visitor visa on Friday 11 September 2020, and are in New Zealand now, can now study for up to six months in a year. This gives them an extra three months on top of the usual three months they are allowed on a visitor visa.
This change also applies to school-age children attending school and people studying short courses with tertiary education providers.
People granted visitor visas after 11 September 2020 will have the standard visa condition allowing three months of study only.
With the horticulture and viticulture industry relying heavily on migrant workers to fill the labour demand during peak season the closure of New Zealand's borders has meant they are now facing severe labour shortages.
To help alleviate these challenges the government has just announced that Holiday Scheme visa holders who are in New Zealand with visas expiring between 1 October 2020 and March 2021, will be automatically granted Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) visas.
This will allow them to work until 30 June 2021 in horticulture and viticulture seasonal roles where there are not enough New Zealanders available to do the work.