What’s changing for temporary work visa?

Well, in short, everything is changing for temporary work visa applications based on offers of employment. The changes come into effect in the next 18 months. As a result, it will consolidate six work visa types into one new Temporary Work Visa. A lot of the finer details are unknown, at the moment.

Under these changes, there is only one type of employer-assisted temporary work visa that foreign workers can apply for. This visa is the
Temporary Work Visa. It replaces the following six work visa categories:

  • Essential Skills
  • Approval in Principle
  • Work to Residence – Talent (Accredited Employer)
  • Work to Residence – Long Term Skills Shortage List Occupations
  • Silver Fern Job Search
  • Silver Fern Practical Experience

However, it will not impact the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme, Partnership based work visa, Working Holiday Visa and Post-study work visa.

A new three-step system replaces the current system. Firstly, there is an employer check. Secondly, there is a job check. And thirdly, there is an applicant check. A major part of the employer check is compulsory employer accreditation.

In addition, Immigration New Zealand is moving to a system that puts an emphasis on the pay-rate. They use the median pay-rate (currently NZD 25). This rate is indexed every November.


October 2019 – changes to Accredited Employer work and resident visas

The whole process of changing to a new system takes 18 months. In October 2019 the first set of changes comes into effect. These changes only affect Work to residence – Talent (Accredited Employer) applicants. New work visa applications under this visa category must meet a salary threshold of NZD 79,560 (currently NZD 55,000) based on a 40-hour workweek.

Another change is the ability to be granted a permanent resident visa. At the moment, if someone earns NZD 90,000 or more and applies for a Residence from Work resident visa, they are granted a Permanent Resident visa instead of a resident visa. This policy ceases to exist on 7 October for all new Work to Residence – Talent (Accredited Employer) application from 7 October. This option remains available to people who currently hold or apply for an Accredited Employer work or resident visa before 7 October 2019.


From mid-2020 the assessment of offers of employment changes. Currently, the ANZSCO skill level and the remuneration determine the skill band of a job. There are three skill-band levels: low-skill, mid-skill, and high-skill.

However, from mid-2020 only the pay-rate determines if a job is low-paid or high-paid. High-paid jobs have a pay-rate at or above the median wage (currently NZD 25 per hour). Consequently, low-paid jobs earn below the median wage. Furthermore, high-paid jobs receive the same benefits as jobs that are currently mid-skill or high-skill. And low-paid jobs will be treated the same as low-skilled jobs.

The ANZSCO occupation code is important to ensure:

  • the rate of pay is not less than the market rate, and
  • the visa applicant is suitably qualified.

Another major change is that low-paid workers AND low-skilled workers can bring their families again. However, the income of the work visa holder must meet or exceed an income threshold.  Under the current system, people who have low-skill jobs cannot bring their family. Under the new rules, partners can only apply for a visitor visa. If they want to work in New Zealand, they must get a work visa in their own right. Dependent children can go to school if the supporting parent earns enough.  If so, then domestic tuition fees apply for primary and secondary school students.

The stand-down period of 12 months for low-skill workers stays in place and also applies to low-paid workers. This means that workers in low-paid jobs need to leave New Zealand after they work for three years. The maximum visa length is either one visa for 3 years or three one-year visas.


In 2021 the new Temporary Work Visa is ready to go. Simultaneously, a three-step system for assessing employer-assisted work visa applications starts. One of the major changes in this system is the need for compulsory employer accreditation. The compulsory accreditation only applies to employers who hire migrants who need an employer-assisted temporary work visa. The work visa length is restricted to a maximum of 3 years.

The check for employers to show that no suitable New Zealand citizens are available changes as well. This check is called the Labour Market Check. For some jobs and cities, the check becomes more difficult. On the other hand, for other jobs and regions, the Labour Market Check is no longer needed.

Two resident visa types will disappear:  the Residence from Work – Talent (Accredited Employer) and Residence from Work – Long Term Skill Shortage List. One new resident visa category replaces these.  There are two main requirements to apply for residence under this new category:

  • People must have a salary above 200% of the median wage, AND
  • they must have worked in a high-paid job in New Zealand for at least 2 years.

As is the case for all work visa holders now, anyone on the new temporary work visa can apply for other residence visas. An example is the Skilled Migrant Category resident visa.

The three-step system of employer check, job check, and applicant check

See the next blog post for an overview of what we know at the moment about the new system.