Hiring a migrant worker in 2020

Since border closure in March we’ve had over 40 different changes in the policies that govern entry to New Zealand.  We explain some of the key changes that have taken place around hiring and sponsoring migrant workers, and the impact these changes have on NZ employers looking to do so.

Out with ANZSCO and in with a new assessment model

On a positive note: Immigration abandoned the use of the ANZSCO to determine the duration of work visas. We have a simpler determining factor – pay rate. This is part of the restructure of the work Visa system that will come into place in 2021.

If the position is paid above $25.50 an hour, the work Visa will be issued for a three-year duration.

Less positive is that those paid less than that will only receive a six-month work Visa— where prior to COVID-19, they would have received a 12-month visa. That ability to only secure a six-month visa for people paid below $25.50 an hour will remain in place until January 2022.

Labour market testing is now paramount post-COVID

Local labour market testing is now paramount in today’s immigration climate. An employer must demonstrate a genuine attempt to recruit from the local labour market before hiring and sponsoring a migrant worker. With the increased level of unemployment in the country, Immigration New Zealand is taking a much stricter approach on this.

The problem here is that it is natural for employers to favour existing employees. They are a known quantity; a loyal hard-working team member, familiar with the business and its operation. Unfortunately, that is simply not a relevant consideration for Immigration New Zealand.

The instruction from the Government is clear – businesses must address the unemployment problem by declining work visa applications where INZ considers New Zealanders are “available” to do the work (even if they are not “willing”, as many agricultural industries have found to be the case.)

The impact of labour market testing on employers

As part of the new immigration process, the employer’s recruitment process will be rigorously examined. This will include a detailed analysis of the wording used in advertising to see if it favoured the work visa applicant, and INZ will demand a detailed, considered explanation of why local candidates were not considered suitable for the position. Vague, generic reasons such as “not a good fit” or “insufficient experience” won’t be accepted.

As an employer, you can expect Immigration New Zealand to ask for the CVs of those who applied – and don’t think referencing the Privacy Act will avoid that.

What to watch out for if you want to hire a migrant worker

Looking ahead, in 2021, it will become mandatory for all employers to be accredited by Immigration New Zealand if they want to support a work visa application. If your business doesn’t do it – don’t expect to be able to hire people from offshore regardless of your business’ needs.

(Before you go there, please don’t whine about it being “more Labour Government bureaucracy” – this was started by a National government!)

Employers will need high workplace policies and practices in the HR space; current IEA’s, a commitment to the recruitment of locals; a commitment to the training of local staff with readily transferable skills (not just training to do their job).

Delays are inevitable – so make sure you don’t delay

With 62,000 employers supporting work Visa applications in the past, this is going to create a massive queue of applications for an organisation like INZ that can’t even handle its existing workload.

Employers are already facing a two-year waits on employee’s residence cases. Imagine the chaos your business will face if recruitment is placed on hold waiting for Immigration New Zealand to process the accreditation status application!

We recommend you don’t delay your application process.

New Zealand’s doors won’t be closed forever

Some will say don’t do it until the border reopens. But we all know that short-sighted strategy in business is costly. Border opening for skilled workers is likely to come sooner than most would expect.

The number of New Zealanders returning has dropped, the urgent need for critical health workers for our COVID response is no longer relevant. That allows the border to be reopened for work Visa applicants.

Note the recent utterances from the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern around bringing skilled people to New Zealand, and dedicating a proportion of the Managed Isolation Facilities to work visa holders – which will likely become border control policy sooner rather than later.

Our advice to all employers for the next 6 months

  • If you are seeking to support a work visa application for an existing employee, obtain some guidance around the advertising, and the presentation of your case as an employer for the retention and ongoing employment of an employee who needs a work visa.
  • Get ready for accreditation status.
  • Give some serious thought to obtaining accreditation status under the current regime so you can get that locked in for the next 2 years and transitioned into the new system rather than getting stuck in a very long queue.

It sounds daunting. But don’t be discouraged. A well-prepared, well-documented, and decision-ready work visa application will succeed. That is where we can help.

If you need support navigating these new rules, contact Aaron Martin at New Zealand Immigration Law for helpful expert advice.

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