Advice to Employers on Assisting Employees to Gain Residency

New Zealand’s accredited employer work visa (AEWV) will undergo significant changes, which in combination with the new 6 Point Residence Visa system, will have impacts that are far-reaching for both employers and migrants. Principal lawyer at NZIL, Aaron Martin, provides a detailed analysis of these changes and discusses what they mean for the landscape of New Zealand’s labour market.

The Government’s announced amendments to the AEWV and the new 6 Point Resident Visa system have introduced a complex layer of policy that affects both migrant workers and accredited employers.

The New Five-Year Visa Duration

Starting from November, a five-year accredited employer work visa duration will be implemented. While this extension may seem beneficial at first glance, it carries potential stumbling blocks. If a worker does not secure a clear pathway to residency towards the end of the five-year period, they must leave New Zealand and wait for a 12-month duration before reapplying for another work visa.

For employers, this means they must be informed and transparent about residency pathways when hiring and must plan how to manage a scenario where a worker only has five years in New Zealand before having to leave for a year. 

Points System Complexity

The newly touted simplified points schedule might appear more straightforward, but the reality is anything but simple. With qualifications, income, and professional registration being the three skill categories for acquiring points, the system demands careful navigation.

For example, a bachelor’s degree yields 3 points, a PhD grants 6, and high income at 1.5 times the median wage earns 3. Yet, combining points from different categories is not permitted.

The remaining points can be made up by relevant New Zealand work experience. However, candidates and employers, when looking towards a pathway to residency, must be aware of what the criteria for relevant work experience are to make sure that they are eligible before accepting a position. (Read our explainer for how the SMC points system works here)

Requirements for skilled work experience

The skilled work experience must be in a full-time job, with a minimum of 30 hours a week AND meet the wage threshold depending on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) level of the job.

For example:

For skilled level 1-3 roles you need to be paid $29.66

For skill level 4 and 5 roles you need to be paid $44.49

So, if you are to employ an overseas worker, you should also be considering not only whether they meet your job description and eligibility for the work visa, but whether their work experience in your company would qualify them for residency.

To ensure this would happen you would have to make sure their job role matches the ANZCSO description and pay.

But if an employee needs to select income as his or her skill criteria under the 6 Point Resident Visa system, and then acquire further work experience in New Zealand to get residence, they may need to meet a different salary or wage threshold for that two-year period.

Maximum Continuous Stay: A Critical Consideration for Employers

The ‘maximum continuous stay’ refers to the total time a worker can be on an AEWV before they must spend time outside New Zealand to be eligible for another AEWV.

New Guidelines Effective from 27 November:

  • If your worker is paid above the median wage, their maximum continuous stay will be five years.
  • If your industry has an exemption to the median wage, specific guidelines will apply to the maximum continuous stay. These will vary by industry.  See table below:

Complexity for Employers with Median Wage Exemptions:

If your business falls into one of the streams with median wage exemptions, understanding the time a worker can stay in New Zealand becomes essential. We recommend seeking expert advice to plan and manage visa requirements, time frames, and employer obligations. This ensures a smooth pathway for your employee.

Understanding the Stand Down Period:

The stand down period and visa duration will differ based on industry sector and whether the median wage is paid. This adds complexity, especially for those already on accredited employer work visas. Navigating this requires understanding the available balance of time for each employee.

Strategic Planning is Key:

Employers must know the trajectory or pathway employees are on concerning visa duration, renewability, and potential residency. Failing to do so may lead to abrupt surprises and urgent challenges. The message for employers is clear: Sit down with a knowledgeable expert to work out a five-year plan.


While the Government aims to simplify the immigration system, the latest AEWV changes add layers of complexity. Employers must think strategically about recruitment, considering not just immediate work visa requirements but also long-term residency pathways. Forward planning is vital from November onwards when recruiting international talent into your business.

How we can help

At NZIL, we are well-versed in the intricacies of the updated AEWV policies. If you are an employer grappling with these new changes, or if you’d like an assessment of your eligibility under the new points system, our team of experts is here to assist you.

Contact us for personalised guidance for your business. Together, we can navigate this new landscape and find the best solutions for you.

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