balloons 2

19 July 2021

Streamlined work visa process and deferral of mandatory accreditation scheme

The Minister of Immigration has recently announced a number of significant changes to the processing of Essential Skills work visas, as well as a deferral to the upcoming compulsory employer accreditation scheme. Those announcements are as follows:


Essential Skills work visa changes

Visa duration for lower-paid applicants extended

The maximum duration of an Essential Skills visa for jobs paid below the median wage (previously $25.50 per hour, now $27.00 per hour from 19 July 2021) has been extended from 12 to 24 months. The duration for those paid above the median wage remains 36 months.


Streamlined application process

INZ has announced measures to significantly streamline the application process, for migrants who currently hold any kind of visa allowing full-time work rights, and who are now seeking to apply for an Essential Skills work visa in order to remain in their current, full-time employment (meaning employment for at least 30 hours per week, that has commenced before the Essential Skills application is made, and has been maintained).


Those who meet the above criteria will no longer need to provide the following with their applications:


  • A copy of their employment agreement
  • Evidence that their employer has advertised the role to prove that there are no New Zealanders available
  • Evidence of their qualifications, work experience or occupational registration


While these changes are stated to apply from 19 July 2021, they do not only apply to applications submitted from this date onward. Applications that were submitted prior to 19 July, but have not yet been decided, will also be able to benefit from the above changes no matter what policy was in place at the time they were submitted, provided of course they are applying on the basis of existing employment. 


For those seeking to apply for an Essential Skills work visa to change jobs, or to change regions despite working for the same employer, the usual process remains in place meaning labour market testing and other supporting documents will still be required.


However all applicants for Essential Skills work visas, whether or not they meet the streamlined criteria, are not required to provide medical or police certificates if they have provided these to INZ at least once before with a previous visa application.


These measures will be in place until the middle of next year; an exact date has yet to be confirmed however this will presumably align with the introduction of the Accredited Employer Work Visa system.


The aim of these changes is to provide certainty both to businesses and to workers, while the COVID-19 pandemic continues. This will bring particular relief to sectors such as farming, tourism and hospitality which rely heavily on migrants, as it will be much simpler over the next year for employers in these sectors to retain their migrant staff.


Online applications temporarily unavailable

From 19 July until 29 August, INZ have indicated that their preference is for Essential Skills work visa applications to be submitted in paper to their offices, rather than submitted through the online system. From 30 August 2021, online applications should be available again.


Compulsory accreditation scheme delayed


The new compulsory employer accreditation scheme, and the Accredited Employer Work Visa which was due to come into effect on 1 November 2021 to replace 6 other visa types, will be delayed until mid-2022. The new date for its implementation has not yet been confirmed. 


The early indication seems to be that the Long Term Skills Shortage and Accredited Employer work to residence applications will still cease to be available from 1 November, despite the delay in the compulsory employer accreditation scheme coming into effect. 


For clarification on how the above announcements may affect you personally, or for any other immigration assistance, please contact one of the team.