New Visa to Protect Exploited Migrants

Protection against the exploitation of working migrants and their families is at the heart of the newest visa created by Immigration New Zealand (INZ). The Migrant Exploitation Protection Visa (MEPV) means that migrant workers will now be able to leave employment after making a credible report of exploitation. This open visa comes into effect on and after 1 July 2021.

Championing migrant worker rights has been a large part of my work at NZIL.

Historically, a lack of clarity about how to support migrant workers who are being exploited has led to a lot of problems. I’ve had clients put on incorrect visas, meaning that they’ve no longer had the right to work. Their experiences of real exploitation disbelieved. In the most extreme cases, the lives of themselves and their families have been threatened.

The MEPV looks to put an end to those stories by making long-awaited changes so that the immigration system is clearer and fairer for the migrant whistle-blowers who report their employers. It is in line with the government’s continued push to end migrant exploitation. This includes the establishment of the new Employer accreditation scheme.

Migrant Exploitation Protection Visa: how it works

It is an open work visa that will allow migrant workers to leave work situations where they are being exploited quickly.

To receive this visa, the migrant must:

  1. be in New Zealand; and
  2. hold a work visa that names their employer as a condition of their visa; and

iii. meet the health and character requirements as set out at A4 and A5; and

  1. have made a report of exploitation to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). MBIE then needs to have found that report to be true and that exploitation of the worker has happened. Holders of a visa granted under these instructions are not eligible to apply for a further MEPV visa based on the same report of exploitation.

Importantly, partners and dependent children who already hold a visa because of their relationship with the person looking to receive an MEPV, may also be eligible for it.

None of the applicants or their partners or dependents will have to provide medical or police certificates, nor will they have to pay an application fee, immigration levy or the International Visitor, Conservation and Tourism Levy.

Migrant Exploitation Protection Visa: who it protects

A case that sticks out for me is a client who battled Immigration New Zealand for over two years because of a lack of clarity around how their situation should have been handled.

Their reports of exploitation were not investigated by Immigration New Zealand and they were put on multiple limited visas. He eventually found work with an accredited employer, but he had to turn it down due to his visa status.

Quite simply, this led to victim blaming by Immigration New Zealand. INZ argued that although my client may have been exploited, in their eyes they had provided an offer of employment that was false because they weren’t being paid what was stated in the contract presented in past Work Visa applications. Meaning that INZ thought my client was lying and of bad character. So their employer got away with exploiting migrant workers.

The MEPV gives clarity around how I can help my clients and what sort of visa they should be applying for. It maintains the integrity of Immigration New Zealand and offers lawyers a concrete structure to fight for their clients.  Under MEPV rules, the fact that migrant workers have in the past submitted documents that did not reflect the reality of their employment is no longer grounds for INZ to make accusations of bad character on the basis of false or misleading information.

Because the guidelines are now clearer and fairer, it is our hope that more migrants will come forward to report exploitation in the workforce. In doing so, eventually New Zealand will become a place where everyone truly gets a fair go.

Need help or advice on your immigration situation? Contact Aaron Martin at NZIL for an honest and helpful appraisal.

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