Work visa rules update

Immigration

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has recently further tweaked the work visa changes it made last year. In effect, the minimum salary levels have increased.

Last year’s changes make visas harder for low-skilled migrants

In August last year, INZ made several changes to how essential skills work visas are considered.  These included:

  • Sorting work visa applicants into low-skilled, mid-skilled, and high-skilled brackets.

  • Ensuring that low-skilled migrants can only get work visas for 12 months, at a time.  

  • Making it impossible for low-skilled migrants to bring families with them to NZ.

  • Making it impossible for low-skilled migrants to stay for more than three years.

Who are low-skilled migrants?

At the time the changes happened, low-skilled migrants were deemed to be:

  • Migrants in a job at Level 4 or 5 on the Australian & New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) and also earning less than $35.25 per hour.

  • Migrants earning less than $19.97 per hour, irrespective of the ANZSCO level of their job.

What are the latest changes?

On 15 January, INZ again changed the essential skills work visa requirements, to increase minimum hourly rates.  This means that low-skilled migrants are now deemed to be:

  • Migrants in a job that is ranked at Level 4 or 5 on the ANZSCO and also earning less than $36.44 per hour.

  • Those earning less than $20.65 per hour, irrespective of the ANZSCO level of their job.

How is the hourly rate calculated?

It is calculated on the basis of payment per hour.  Therefore, if an employee is paid a salary, the hourly rate is calculated on the basis of the hours stipulated in the employment agreement.  If the employment agreement says that the hours of work are variable, then INZ will request evidence of the range of hours that an employee could work.  The maximum number of hours that an employee could work will be used to calculate the hourly rate. 

What do the changes mean?

If you are employing a migrant who is earning less than $20.65 per hour, whether by way of salary or wages, his or her work visa may only be approved for a further 12 months. 

Also, he or she will also be unable to continue in his or her employment for three years, from the date of his or her first application after August 2017.

Finally, he or she will not be able to bring a partner or children to NZ, if they are not already here.  If the family are already here, then they will have to leave NZ when the work visa holder’s three years are complete. 

If may also be prudent to review the employment agreements of any salaried migrant employees, who are close to the hourly rate of $20.65, so as to make the hours of work very clear.

 

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