Laurent Law Barristers & Solicitors
408 Mt. Eden Road
Mt Eden, Auckland, 1024, New Zealand
Ph. +64-9-630-0411; Fax +64-9-630-0412
Critical changes to the settings for Skilled Migrant Residence, and for job-based Work Visas, are having their effect. And not in a good way, according to many.
The numbers granted Residence in the year to June 2018 dropped by over 20%, with most of this in the Skilled Migrant Category. This puts the Government well behind on its 3-year Residence Programme targets, which will pretty soon harm the country in a big way.
Meanwhile, Work Visa settings are hammering sectors like hospitality, aged care and retail. Those on lower-paid jobs (less than $21.25 an hour, that is) face real obstacles to bringing their partner or children here with them. A recent blog by our Staff Solicitor, Dew James, gives more detail.
The Government wants to force employers to pay people more across the board, but where are the tax incentives and support for business to make that equation work? Instead, the latest labour legislation shifts the burden of workplace relations in favour of staff over the bosses.
There may be a couple of rays of hope. There are some Work Visa pathways which I'll talk about below. Another positive might be an "employer based" set of visa policies which are in the works.
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Become an Accredited Employer
An employer holding Accreditation status is able to support a potential employee to apply for a 30-month Talent Work Visa. After 24 months they may be able to apply for Residence. Normally, the job must pay at least $55K p.a., and that threshold could increase this year; and it must be in the employer's "core area of business".
This alternative route may be useful if an Essential Skills Work Visa is not possible - for example, where an employer cannot successfully demonstrate there are no New Zealanders available to fill certain positions. It can also be a strategic incentive to keep key people by offering them a pathway to Residence.
Some fairly stringent criteria apply to seeking Accreditation. Read
about the process, and contact us for a discussion about it, if you want to know if it is for you.
. . . or What About Approval in Principle?
Getting an AIP allows an employer to hire multiple workers for a particular role in the business, without having to get the job and the availability of New Zealanders assessed in each case.
The criteria to be met are similar to supporting an Essential Skills Work Visa:
- Is the job acceptable - i.e., what is the occupation and the salary?
- What has the employer done to find New Zealanders to do the work?
- Do they have a good record of compliance with labour and immigration law?
The standard of proving that there are no New Zealand workers is probably higher than for a single Essential Skills Work Visa application.
If you are seeking more than 2 or 3 workers, the effort required to handle both the AIP and to support individual visa applications is likely to be significantly less than what would be needed to handle multiple stand-alone Essential Skills Work Visas.
Our Approval in Principle Guide gives more detail, including an explanation about the key issue of how remuneration is calculated. In the end, though, it is best to contact us in order to find out if an AIP would best serve your needs.
A New Look for Job-Based Work Visas
A central feature is that all employers wishing to employ migrants must obtain one of three types of accreditation. This might give greater certainty to employers who get it, so that hiring migrants will (hopefully) be less painful. There are a couple of immediate risks with this idea:
- Businesses wanting to hire only 1 or 2 people will face a disproportionate load of paperwork to do so. From our experience, seeking accreditation is a serious exercise; and
- Accreditation must apparently be renewed every 12 months. There could be real problems for employers if Immigration is slow to decide applications for renewal, as was happening just a couple of years ago.
A class of premium accreditation will be available, requiring an employer to demonstrate "pastoral care, active engagement in workforce programmes and endorsement by third parties [i.e., unions]." The successful business can renew accreditation for 2 years at a time.
Another new element is the concept of "sector agreements" with particular industries for hiring in lower-skilled occupations. Business groups such as the EMA and Restaurant Association will need to invest even more in research and professional lobbying to secure an agreement benefiting their membership:
"It is proposed that negotiations begin with the residential aged care sector and the tourism and hospitality sector in mid-2019 with the expectation that the agreements could come into effect by early 2020."
Underpinning these and other ideas floated in the plan are stated imperatives to raise wages and to combat exploitation of migrant labour. The latter issue has received some additional attention and funding by MBIE in the last couple of years, but the anecdotal evidence is that it continues unchecked. A
gives some empirical backbone to the stories. Nor is it limited to fly-by-night employers in back streets - major construction firms are
also being accused of breaching employment standards
on a large scale.
Finally, the Government wants to tune the migrant labour supply to match the needs of the regions. No doubt there is merit in this, but any such system should also recognise that median wages differ widely across the country. Employers should not be forced to pay Auckland prices for a worker in Southland.