3-step Temporary Work Visa – what’s that?

In 2021, a new 3-step temporary work visa process to decide work visa applications begins. One new Temporary Work Visa replaces six current work visa types. The new system applies to employer-assisted work visa applications only. It affects everyone who needs to apply for an employer-assisted work visa. New employer-assisted work visa applicants but also people who are currently in New Zealand on a (work) visa and who wish to apply for an employer-assisted work visa from 2021. A lot of details are unknown at the moment. They’ll become clear once the policy is written. There is quite a bit we do know.

From 2021, a new 3-step temporary work visa process is in place. It consists of the following steps:

  1. Employer check — all employers, including those with an existing accreditation, must get accreditation before they can hire migrants
  2. Job check — this includes checking that the job is paid in line with the New Zealand market rate and, in some cases, includes a labour market test to ensure New Zealand workers are not available.
  3. Applicant check — when a worker applies for an employer-assisted work visa, they must show they meet the standard character, identity, and health requirements, as well showing they have the skills to do the job they have been offered.

Employer Check

Under the new process, employers who want to employ a foreign worker for an employer-assisted work visa need accreditation. They must sort their accreditation before they can move onto the next part of the process.
There will be two types of accreditation*. Which type an employer should apply for, depends on how many foreign workers they employ in a 12 month period.

  1. Standard accreditation – Employers who employ between one and five employer-assisted foreign workers in a 12 month period
  2. High-volume accreditation – Employers who employ between more than 5 employer-assisted foreign workers in a 12 month period

* Labour hire companies have specific accreditation requirements. They are not discussed here.

Standard accreditation

For standard accreditation, the employer must

  • be a genuine business (or organisation) with a financial presence
  • not be on the non-compliant employer stand down list
  • be compliant with any relevant industry-specific or other regulatory standards
  • have no history of non-compliance with the immigration system

High-volume accreditation

High-volume accredited employers must meet the same requirements as for standard accreditation. In addition, they also must make specific commitments to train and upskill New Zealanders and to improve pay and conditions.
High-volume accredited employers must indicate how they propose to meet these commitments in their initial accreditation application.

Validity of accreditation

The initial accreditation lasts for 12 months and for 2 years for subsequent renewals. For Labour Hire Companies the accreditation is limited to 12 months.

Job Check and Labour Market Test

In the new system, there is more emphasis on the regions. It is easier for an employer to hire a migrant if they are located outside of the five big cities. There is also more emphasis on the difference between high-paid jobs and low-paid jobs. The current Regional Skill Shortage list only applies to the major cities (Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin).

The job checks an accredited employer must do before they hire a migrant worker depend on:

  • the location of their business
  • whether the wage is above or below the New Zealand median wage — currently NZD $25 an hour.

An employer must pay the market rate for any job they offer to a migrant worker.

New Zealand regions

Under the new system New Zealand is divided into three regions:

  1. Cities – Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin
  2. Higher supply region – Northland, Manawatu-Wanganui, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki, Tasman, Nelson, Marlborough and the West Coast, regional Wellington, including the Wairarapa
  3. Lower supply region – Waikato, Canterbury, Otago, and Southland

Labour market test

A Labour Market Test is a check to see if there are New Zealanders available. A Labour Market Test is not always necessary. The location of the business and the pay rate determine what an employer must do. For jobs:

An employer needs to complete a Labour Market Test if:

  • Their business is in one of the 5 big cities, unless the job is on a Skill Shortage List or when the pay is above 200% of the median wage, and/or
  • The pay-rate is below the median wage

A Labour Market Test is not necessary when:

  • The pay-rate is very high (200 percent or twice the median wage), and/or
  • The pay-rate is above the median wage and the business is outside of the five big cities

With a standard Labour Market Test, an employer provides evidence that they advertised for the job and that the advertising included the rate of pay.

For low-paid jobs with a pay-rate below the median wage, an employer also must also involve the Ministry of Social Development (MSD). And provide them with the requirements of the job, including any qualifications, skills, and experience requirements.

Stricter rules for rejecting New Zealand applicants

Employers cannot support a visa application if there are suitable New Zealanders available. In addition, employers cannot reject suitable referrals from MSD and still pass the Labour Market Test. There are a few exceptions, for instance, if there are acceptable reasons to reject a candidate. Examples of acceptable reasons are when the job seeker

  • did not show up for a scheduled interview or
  • failed a drug test for a vacancy in a high-risk environment

Unless it is a requirement for the job, an employer cannot reject an applicant who doesn’t have a driver license or a car.

Lastly, Immigration New Zealand plans to negotiate Sector Agreements. Employers who recruit foreign workers for occupations covered by a Sector Agreement must comply with the agreement. The first Sector Agreements may be for the residential care and meat processing sectors.

Applicant check

Migrants can only apply for an employer-assisted work visa once the employer has completed the employer check and the job check.
The last check, the applicant check, will largely remain as it is at the moment. This includes checks on identity, health, and character. A migrant will also need to meet the skills and experience requirements as stated by the employer during the job check.

Visa length for the new 3-step Temporary Work Visa

The following maximum visa length is allowed for a work visa under the new system. The length of the visa is determined by the pay-rate and the location of the employer. Jobs that are paid:

  • Above the median wage – 3 years (irrespective of the location of the employer)
  • Below the median wage* – 1 year when in a city or a higher supply region
  • Below the median wage* – 3 years when in a lower supply region

* A stand-down period of 12 months still applies for low-paid jobs. A worker can renew their visa but can only work in New Zealand for up to 3 years. At the end of that time, they must leave New Zealand. If they want to return, they must spend at least 12 months out of New Zealand first before they apply for another work visa.