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Migrant workers: New rules so check visa conditions

If you employ workers from overseas, recent changes in New Zealand’s immigration policies mean the job you offer and how much you pay may affect their visa conditions, eg how long they can stay in the country.

The changes apply to many lower-skilled jobs. Migrants are employed in every sector — for example, about one in five tourism and hospitality workers are from overseas.

New visa conditions

When: From 28 August 2017

What: Changes to immigration policies mean new conditions for some migrant workers. For Essential Skills visa-holders paid less than 85 per cent of the median wage with jobs classed as lower-skilled, new conditions include:

  • After working in New Zealand for three years, they must leave the country for a 12-month stand-down period before they can be granted another lower-skilled work visa.
  • Their family members need their own visas to enter New Zealand.

Essential Skills work visa changes (external link) — Immigration New Zealand

Skilled Migrant work visa changes (external link) — Immigration New Zealand

Why: To plug skill shortages while also encouraging the employment of New Zealanders first – and clarifying settlement expectations for temporary migrant workers.

What you’ll need to do: If you employ someone from overseas, or are thinking about it, check if the job you offer and the amount you pay will affect their visa conditions. The three-year limit applies if:

  • The job is classed as lower-skilled by Immigration New Zealand — see examples below.
  • You pay them less than 85 per cent of the median wage — this currently means less than $19.97 an hour. Income thresholds are updated annually — an adjusted rate is expected in November.

For those already in New Zealand on a work visa, the three-year limit will start from the date of their next lower-skilled Essential Skills visa issued after 28 August 2017.

Examples of lower-skilled jobs

These are some of the jobs classed as lower-skilled if they are paid below 85 per cent of the median wage:

  • carers and receptionists in the health industry
  • road and rail drivers
  • clerks and factory workers in the manufacturing industry
  • sales workers in the retail industry
  • farm and forestry workers
  • cleaners and laundry workers.

To check if a job is classed as lower-skilled, check the Immigration New Zealand website.

Employment skill bands (external link) — Immigration New Zealand

Hiring overseas workers

Any worker who isn’t a New Zealand citizen needs a valid visa with work rights. They need to apply for the visa but you may also need to provide some paperwork.

If you plan to hire a migrant who is in New Zealand, check their visa lets them work for you. If not, you can offer them the job and they can apply for a work visa. In many cases, candidates must have a job offer to support their visa application.

Use Immigration New Zealand’s VisaView tool to check someone’s visa status.

Check a candidate’s visa status (external link)  — Immigration New Zealand

Employment rights

You must comply with New Zealand employment rules when you hire a migrant. This includes minimum employment rights, eg:

  • a written employment agreement
  • minimum wage
  • minimum leave entitlements, eg five days’ paid sick leave
  • a safe workplace.

Employer training modules (external link)   — Employment New Zealand

Have you hired someone from overseas in the last two years?

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