A number of big changes to NZ temporary work visas were announced by the NZ Government today.

  1. Further 6 month extension to employer-assisted work visas

First, the government will extend all existing employer-assisted temporary work visas for people who are in New Zealand and whose visas are due to expire before the end of 2020 by six months.

That includes work visa holders whose visas are due to expire after 9 July, as well as those visas that were previously extended to 25 September under the Epidemic Management Notice. The following types of work visas will be extended:

  • Essential Skills
  • Work to Residence
  • Special and Skilled work visas for China, Indonesia, South Korea, Philippines and Vietnam
  • Special category work visas for Japanese Interpreters and Thai Chefs
  • Work visas granted under section 61 of the Immigration Act 2009 that specify an employer

Note the automatic extension doesn’t apply to Specific Purpose Work Visas. Also, we understand from INZ that partners or dependents of employer assisted work visa holders will not be granted an automatic extension and must apply for a further visa.

This extension will be automatic for most visa holders and will benefit around 16,500 Essential Skills and Work to Residence visa holders who are in New Zealand.  All other conditions of the original visa remain the same, including the specific occupation and specific employer and location.

  1. Delay to 12 month stand down period for lower-paid workers

The second big change is to delay the introduction of the 12 month stand down period for lower-paid workers who have had their employer-assisted work visa extended. This is to align with the six month extension for temporary work visa holders in New Zealand.

The stand-down period means that people who have been in New Zealand on a lower-paid Essential Skills visa for three years are unable to be granted a new Essential Skills visas until they have spent 12 months outside New Zealand.

This time-limited change will enable lower-paid migrants who are subject to the stand-down between August 2020 and the end of December 2020 to stay in New Zealand and work for the same employer in the same occupation and location for up to a further six months, in line with their visa extension.

However, the stand down period will still apply if a migrants who is subject to the stand down moves to another lower-paid Essential skills work visa.

There are around 600 workers who will be subject to the stand-down period between August 2020 and the end of December 2020.

Any migrants who are subject to the stand-down period from February 2021 will still be required to leave New Zealand for 12 months before they are able to apply for another lower-paid work visa.

  1. Reduction in duration of all new lower-paid Essential Skills Work Visas to 6 months only

The third big change is to reduce the duration of all new lower-paid Essential Skills work visas from 12 months to six months to mitigate future labour market risks. This will apply to all new lower-paid Essential Skills work visa applications lodged from 10 July. Applications received prior to 10 July will still be granted a 12 months visa if approved.

Together, these changes provide more certainty in the short-term while businesses look to recover from COVID-19 and enable employers to utilise the skills of work visa holders they already employ.

ANZSCO no longer used to determine skill level and visa duration for Essential Skills Work Visas

Additionally, INZ will be implementing a further stage of its changes to the employer-assisted work visas which it announced last year. From 27 July 2020, the ANZSCO will no longer be used to determine whether a job is considered higher- or lower-skilled. Instead, a simple remuneration threshold will be used which means that work visa applications for jobs that are paid below the median wage will need to include a Skills Match Report (SMR) from the Ministry of Social Development. The duration of the visa will also be dependent on whether the individual will be paid above or below the national median wage.