Immigration New Zealand announced new visa settings for workers in care, construction, primary industry and tourism to help refill the workforce shortages.
From 31 October 2022, new sector agreement settings will be introduced. These new settings will allow Accredited Employers hire skilled migrant workers with limited exceptions to the median wage requirements.
The sectors included in the new agreements visa settings are:
- Care workforce – visa duration is up to 2 years at Level 3 below median wage;
- Construction and infrastructure – visa duration is up to 2 years below median wage;
- Meat processing – visa duration is up to 7 months with no another Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) below median wage to be issued until the next season;
- Seafood onshore – visa duration is up to 7 months with no another AEWV below median wage to be issued until the next season;
- Seafood sea-based – visa duration is up to 12 months (status quo) with no stand down;
- Seasonal snow and adventure tourism – visa duration is up to 7 months with possibility of multiple AEWVs below median wage to be granted to allow for movement between roles across seasons.
Stand down periods
Migrant stand down periods have been a part of immigration policy since 2017 and are in place for AEWV roles that are paid below the median wage to make it clear to potential migrant workers that they cannot work in New Zealand in such a role for any longer than two years.
This is important because there is no pathway to residence for migrant workers with roles paying at this level. It also incentivises employers to reduce reliance on lower-skilled migrant labour, which will only be temporary.
However, these migrants won’t have to leave the country if they obtain another AEWV by securing another role that is paying the median wage or more, or they could apply for another visa, like a student visa.
If employers wish to continue hiring a migrant worker previously on a AEWV with a stand down, they could do so by recruiting them into a role paying at or above the median wage.
The stand down period will not mean that partners of AEWV holders in roles earning less than the median wage will need to leave the country after two years. They will be able to stay in New Zealand on a visitor visa for the duration of their partner’s visa.
How else can skilled migrants be hired?
In addition to the sector agreements, employers can continue to hire migrants with open work visas such as students, working holiday makers and partners with open work visas.
- For any role regardless of pay: Migrants with open work visas (like students and Working Holiday Scheme participants) will be able to work in any role for any pay rate above the minimum wage.
- For roles paid at or above the median wage: AEWV is available for employers who wish to recruit migrant workers for roles paying at or above median wage. This visa type is uncapped and open to migrant workers from anywhere in the world.
- For roles paid below the median wage: The sector agreement will provide a pathway, via the AEWV, for employers to hire migrants in certain roles where they are paying below the median wage. There is a limit on numbers for two of the sector agreements: meat processing capped at 320 per year, onshore seafood capped at 600 per year, and sea-based seafood capped at 940 per year.
New sector agreement settings including pay rates, timeframes and roles were developed following consultation with sector representatives and government agencies. You can check the fact sheet to learn more about each sector and criteria. However, new visa settings will be introduced in full on 31 October 2022.
Until 31 October 2022, employers can continue to use existing rules to recruit migrants. Operational details of sector agreements will be released when finalised.