A month of unprecedented immigration changes
This has got to be the most incredible time in New Zealand’s immigration history. Not only are the Talent (Accredited Employers) and Long Term Skill Shortage List (LTSSL) work visas officially set to end on the 31st of October, but on the 30th of September, the Minister of Immiration Kris Faafoi introduced a new one-off residence visa pathway that 165,000 migrants currently in New Zealand could be eligible for.
Although this new residence visa provides much-needed relief for migrant workers in NZ, allowing them to feel certain about their future here, it has implications for NZ businesses as well.
Said Minister Faafoi, “This is something employers have asked for and we are delivering. Employers will now have the opportunity to retain their settled and migrant workers, reflecting the critical part they play in our economy, essential workforce and communities.”
Introducing the 2021 Resident Visa
Without delving too deeply into the technicalities and eligibility requirements of this 2021 Resident Visa, it is important to understand some basic facets of this new category. It will be open to migrant workers who meet certain criteria as on 29 September 2021. It will also be available to some critical purpose visitor visa holders who can arrive in NZ before 31 July, 2022.
Applications for this visa open on 1 December 2021, and close 31 July 2022 - giving eligible migrants between five to eight months to submit their applications for residence.
For those employees who are eligible for the new resident visa - although this visa is a top priority for Immigration New Zealand, it is likely that applicants will not receive a decision for about a year. And in order to remain lawfully in NZ, all applicants must hold current temporary work visas for the entirety of this 12 - 18 month processing time.
Temporary Work Visas - Why Are They Still So Important?
Despite the introduction of the new 2021 Resident Visa, employers must remain vigilant. While your employees are waiting for their residence to be processed - which could take upwards of a year, they must maintain valid work visas at all times. If your employees' work visas are due to expire, they must seek and be granted another appropriate visa to continue working for you.
Just by applying for this residence, it does not mean they are automatically granted the right to work - that entitlement comes from a work visa, until residence is fully approved. It is very important for businesses to only employ people who are entitled to work for them and hold an appropriate visa. INZ considers this to be as much an employer's responsibility as the employee’s.
End of ‘Talent Accredited Employer’ and ‘Long Term Skilled Shortage List’ Work visas
The rapidly-approaching 31st October end of these two common Work to Residence visas has received much attention over the past few months. And for many, the closure of these categories meant their chance to seek residence under these visas would also shut down.
However, all this changed with the introduction of last week’s 2021 Resident Visa announcement, due to widespread eligibility for this category. If your employees had previously been unable to jump on the work to residence pathway, they can rest easy knowing there is another possible option open to them - but they must ensure they meet the requirements!
Essential Skills Work Visa - The Future for Employers
Come the 1st of November - NZ employers will only be able to support migrant workers on one type of visa - Essential Skills.
At a high level, the Essential Skills Work Visa (ESWV) is a temporary work visa that individuals can apply for only after they have a job offer from an NZ employer, and have the necessary experience and qualifications to fill that job.
Unlike the Work to Residence visas, where visa applicants had to be paid a minimum annual salary, under the ESWV a worker can qualify for a work visa at any salary level.
To conclude, we reiterate the importance of your employees holding valid and appropriate temporary visas at all times - be it Talent Visa (submitted while the category is open), or an Essential Skills Work Visa. While holding a resident visa puts a migrant worker on equal footing with New Zealanders and their work rights, you must ensure the correct work visa is maintained until your worker’s residence is granted.
Understanding These Visa Pathways Is Critical
With so many substantial immigration changes taking place, it may not be apparent to your employees which visa they can apply for, when they can submit their different visa applications, and the requirements they have to maintain for immigration compliance. The introduction of the new 2021 Resident category may confuse them further, especially if they are now eligible for multiple categories of residence.
If you’d like to learn more about the impact of these recent changes on your organisation, we invite you to join us for our upcoming virtual panel event: Immigration, Border, Skill Shortage: What’s Next for Employers and Recruiters?which will take place Wednesday, 20 October from 12 - 1pm.
Join representatives from INZ, Auckland Business Chamber, RCSA (Recruitment, Consulting & staffing Association of AUstralia & NZ) and Aims Global for a discussion on what these recent changes mean for your organisation; how changing border settings could impact the current talent shortage; and practical steps your organisation can take in order to prepare for the challenges ahead.
Arunima Dhingra, CEO Aims Global & Principal Licensed Immigration Adviser #200900407
Arunima Dhingra is a long-standing licensed immigration adviser in New Zealand. She is the Founder and Director of Aims Global and has been providing immigration advice and support to NZ businesses and migrants for over 15 years. Arunima was a finalist at the prestigious NZAMI Immigration Awards in 2015, and won the awards in 2017 - Immigration Adviser/Lawyer of the Year Award and Community Outreach Award.
Arunima has been serving as a Board Director for New Zealand Association of Migration and Investment (NZAMI), NZ's largest association of immigration advisers and lawyers, for the past 3 years and was chairing their Policy Committee for 2 years.