Government Tightens Work Rights for Partners of Work Visa Holders

Opinion piece from Aaron Martin

With new restrictions in place for partners of work visa holders, the landscape of New Zealand’s labour market is set to change. Principal lawyer at NZIL, Aaron Martin, gives his opinion on the implications of these changes and the potential challenges lying ahead.

New Zealand, much like the rest of the world, has been adapting its policies to cater to a rapidly changing global labour market. The latest in these policy changes came into effect on May 31, drastically altering work rights for partners of work visa holders. 

Historically, these individuals could secure employment with any New Zealand employer, irrespective of salary, often bringing highly sought-after skills into the country. The recent shift in policy, however, restricts these rights, creating concerns about the disconnect between government decisions and the realities that businesses face.

Restrictions and Concerns

Under the updated policy, partners of work visa holders can still acquire a work visa, but this visa now carries specific conditions. To comply, partners must only seek employment with an immigration-accredited employer and must only accept positions that meet or exceed the median hourly wage of NZ$29.66. This wage requirement, however, does come with a few exceptions for roles in industries with an uncapped limit on work visa holders.

Despite this slight leniency, these changes pose a significant concern. They increase the complexity of the process, create potential confusion for visa holders, and add to the administrative burden of visa management.

The new requirements have the potential to create confusion among visa holders who may struggle to understand the newly attached conditions.

 When conditions are imposed on a visa, they must be enforced, and infringements carry serious consequences, including the possibility of deportation. That creates a sense of insecurity which runs counter to attracting skilled individuals (and their families) at a time when the international labour market is highly competitive. 

Moreover, the restrictions limit the job market for those planning to move to New Zealand with their partners, making the settling process even more challenging. It also shrinks the number of jobs that partners can apply for and increases the complexity of the job hunt, as individuals must ensure that the job pays at least the minimum hourly rate, and that the employer is accredited.

On a positive note, at least the long-awaited tool allowing job seekers to search for accredited employers has launched. This has been a long time coming and will make it easier for migrants to quickly check if an employer is accredited before they apply for a job. 

If you are an accredited employer I highly recommended that you include this fact on any job advertisement. This makes it clear to partners of work visa holders that it is a job that fits at least one of the new conditions for partner visas, and they can apply for it, if it also meets the wage conditions.

How NZIL can Help

At New Zealand Immigration Law (NZIL), we specialize in navigating the complexities of the immigration system. If you are a partner of a work visa holder and would like to understand more about the recent changes and how they might affect you, our team of experts is here to guide you. Contact us for comprehensive advice on your application or any other queries related to immigration.

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