Changes to the Employer Accreditation Process
On 3 February 2022, the Prime Minister announced the Government’s 5-step plan for reconnecting New Zealand to the world. As part of Step 4, the new Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) will open in July to applications from migrants both in New Zealand and in other countries. The Prime Minister also announced that, as part of planned ‘immigration rebalance’ changes, a new minimum pay threshold – set at the median wage – will be introduced for the AEWV.
Employers were working steadily towards the impending mandatory accreditation status requirement and the AEWV system only to now discover that INZ have made a change to the intended program.
Several changes were made on 22 March to streamline the accreditation and job check step. We explain the changes and what they mean for employers.
- High-volume accreditation no longer includes a requirement that jobs must pay at least 10% above minimum wage or be covered by a collective agreement, as the new median wage threshold will apply across the board.
While this is welcome news, the backhand is that it’s clear Immigration New Zealand (INZ) don’t want to issue work visas to anyone paid below $27.76/hr under the new AEWV system. Employers reliant on workers paid below that level will have to utilise Working Holiday Scheme Visa holders or Post-study Work Visa holders. It’s indicated there may be some exceptions for some industries, but I expect that to be very limited.
A significant number of the high-volume accreditation requirements have been applied to standard accreditation. Employers must still apply for high-volume accreditation and pay a higher fee if they want to employ more than five workers on AEWVs at any one time.
- Employers can upgrade from standard to high-volume accreditation at any point during their accreditation period, for a fee. This fee reflects the additional risk assurance activities that INZ may have to undertake, as the impact of non-compliance increases with the greater number of migrants employed by a business. Further requirements for high-volume employers may be considered in the future.
It is somewhat confusing that the initial fee for high-volume accreditation is set at $1220 compared to standard accreditation set at $720. Despite saying there is no difference in what is needed to apply, there is almost 100% difference in the fee charged between the two forms of accreditation. Apparently, this is because of increased “risk assurance activities” in a high-volume accreditation application.
It still doesn’t make any sense as to why they are the same at one level, but different or what these additional “risk assurance activities” are and why those are not applied to standard accreditation applications also.
- Additional accreditation requirements remain for employers who are franchisees or who place AEWV holders with controlling third parties – but there is now no limit on the number of AEWV holders these employers can employ at one time.
- At the job check stage, the Labour Market Test is no longer regionalised. All employers need to advertise their vacancies unless the role is paid at least twice the median wage.
- There will be more flexibility in how INZ calculates whether a migrant meets the median wage threshold.
New implementation dates for Employer accreditation
To account for the changes to the AEWV and further decisions to come from the Government, the key dates are now:
- 23 May 2022: Employers can apply for accreditation
- 20 June 2022: Accredited employers can submit a job check. Note – the advertising requirements for Labour Market Testing will be changed and become quite prescriptive.
- 4 July 2022(unchanged): Migrants can apply for an AEWV where the employer is accredited, and a job check has been completed. Work visa applicants must be paid $27.76/hr. The job check will not be approved if the pay rate is below this.
Migrant workers can still apply for an Essential Skills Work Visa until 3 July 2022. Employers do not need to apply for accreditation from 23 May 2022, unless they intend to hire migrants on an AEWV soon after 4 July 2022.