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HomeNewsEssential Skills requirements become stricter

Essential Skills requirements become stricter

Immigration New Zealand has issued a new Visa Pack which sets updated requirements for work visa assessments under Essential Skills category – this has been confirmed in the latest update for Immigration Advisers. Advice to immigration offices on labour market testing and sustainability assessments for Essential Skills work visa applications (a Visa Pak) will be available on the INZ website.

Immigration instructions require an immigration officer to be satisfied that, at the time the application is assessed, there are no New Zealanders available to do the work offered, in order to grant an Essential Skills work visa. As part of the application process, employers must provide evidence that they’ve taken all reasonable steps to hire a New Zealander first. Employers wanting to employ overseas workers for ANZSCO skill level 4 and 5 occupations are also required to provide Skills Match Reports and advice from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).

In normal circumstances, it’s unlikely the labour market would change significantly between when an employer attempts to recruit New Zealanders, and the time the application is assessed. However, COVID-19 has greatly affected New Zealand’s economy, and job market. INZ need to make sure our processes reflect the government’s commitment to supporting New Zealand businesses, so they can continue providing their services, while also ensuring that employment opportunities are given to as many New Zealanders as possible.

To balance these factors, immigration officers may require updated information when assessing Essential Skills work visa applications that the employment offer remains valid and continues to be sustainable, and that there remain no New Zealanders available regionally and able to do the work on offer.

Concerns that New Zealanders may be now available, or that employment may not now be genuine and sustainable will be considered potentially prejudicial information (PPI) and applicants will be given an opportunity to comment and provide further information before a decision is made. This will allow applicants to seek further information from their employer regarding the possible increased recent availability of New Zealanders, and confirmation that the employment remains valid, and provide any other relevant information they believe addresses the concerns raised.
Skills Match Reports
Employers wanting to employ overseas workers for ANZSCO skill level 4 and 5 occupations are required to provide Skills Match Reports and advice from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD). This requires employers to work with MSD to place New Zealand jobseekers into the role before offering employment to migrant workers.
Skills Match Reports are available from the Ministry of Social Development. Employers who require an SMR need to first list their vacancy with the Ministry of Social Development and can do this on the Work and Income website.
Next steps

Essential Skills work visa applications will generally be assessed in date order. Applicants aren’t required to provide anything proactively – if more information is required, INZ will request it at the time the application is being assessed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why am I being asked for updated information about the availability of New Zealanders?
Under current immigration instructions, INZ needs to balance facilitating businesses getting the workforce they need, and protecting the employment opportunities of New Zealanders.
COVID-19 has had significant impacts on New Zealand’s job market, and unemployment rates are rising. Assessing applications only on information provided before the impacts of COVID-19 does not align with the requirement to protect the employment opportunities of New Zealand. This means that INZ needs to ensure that no New Zealanders are available to do the work being offered, before visas are granted to any migrant employees.

Do I have to re-advertise?
Employers aren’t required to re- advertise the vacancy, but they may need to provide updated information that there are still no New Zealanders available in this current job market, to the best of their knowledge. Employers may choose to re-advertise as part of providing further evidence.

What does genuine and sustainable mean? My business is receiving the wage subsidy, does this matter?
The employment offered to Essential Skills visa applicants needs to be for real and genuine work, for at least 30 hours per week. Essential Skills work visas are granted for a period of either 12 months, three years, or five years, and consideration needs to be given to whether the work being offered is going to remain available for the entire duration of the visa. It’s likely that New Zealand’s economic situation is going to continue to change, and employers must be confident in their ability to continue trading (to the best of their knowledge).
The wage subsidy provides support for business who have experienced a reduction in revenue, and doesn’t necessarily mean the business won’t be sustainable going forward. Employers receiving the wage subsidy can still hire Essential Skills work visa applicants.

I’m confident my business and the employment is sustainable. But what happens if my business’s situation changes, and I can’t keep my workers on?
If your business situation changes then you must go through normal employment law processes. Any work visas holders who are made redundant would then need to obtain new employment and either obtain a new work visa or vary their existing visa to begin that new employment if they wish to work and remain in New Zealand.,

What kind of things does INZ usually take into consideration if there are no New Zealanders available for the role being offered?
INZ considers a range of factors when determining whether any suitable New Zealanders are available for the work. This includes, but isn’t limited to, things like:

  • the employer’s case in support of an individual worker’s application; and
  • evidence of a genuine attempt by the employer to recruit New Zealanders, through advertising and the use of other channels, such as recruitment agencies
  • advice from Work and Income about the availability of New Zealand citizens or residence class visa holder workers to do the work offered; and
  • advice from relevant stakeholders within the particular industry, including unions


How long will it take to process the Essential Skills work visa application I’m supporting?
Due to the complexities of the situation and INZ’s current limited visa processing capability, we’re unable to give exact timeframes of when these applications will be processed. However, we aim to do so as quickly as possible given the current constraints on visa processing resources.

Can I submit this further evidence now, even though I haven’t been asked for it yet?
INZ will request additional evidence at the time the application is being assessed.


What is the Skills Match Report (SMR) and why is it important?
Current immigration instructions require employers seeking to employ an overseas worker for an occupation with an ANZSCO skill level of 4 or 5 are required to obtain a SMR from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD). A SMR details if any New Zealanders are available to work in the role being offered to the migrant worker. One can only be issued to employers who have advertised their vacancy with Work and Income New Zealand, where no suitable New Zealanders have been found.

Will I be able to get an SMR from MSD?
MSD have confirmed that SMR’s are available to employers who engage with MSD to recruit New Zealanders for vacancies.