The reopening of the border in July 2022 was met with some significant changes to New Zealand’s immigration settings. In this article, Martelli McKegg associate Mathew Martin (with the assistance of Saleha Hamid-Drew) explains what the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) means for employers
The AEWV, which replaced almost all other work visa categories, has significantly altered the way employers and employees engage with Immigration New Zealand (INZ).
In almost every case, if you are an employer looking to hire migrant workers, you must first be accredited with Immigration New Zealand.
The system for securing an AEWV involves three stages:
The employer check.
The job check.
The migrant worker check.
We discuss these stages and some frequently asked questions, next.
Stage 1: Employer Check
Your business must apply for and receive accreditation before migrant workers can apply for an AEWV.
You can apply for different levels of accreditation, depending on the number of migrants you intend to hire. The INZ accreditation application fee begins at $740 for standard accreditation (up to five migrants), $1,220 for high volume (six or more migrants), $1,980 for franchisee accreditation, and up to $3,870 for the accreditation of labour hire type companies (ie, those who place workers with controlling third parties).
To become accredited, employers must:
Be genuinely undertaking business.
Provide evidence they are financially viable.
Fulfil what is known as ‘settlement support activities’. These include the provision of information to migrants concerning local living conditions. See text box overleaf for details.
In addition, both the migrant and key employer staff involved in the hiring process must complete online learning modules with Employment New Zealand.
Stage 2: Job Check
Once your business is accredited with INZ, a job check application can be submitted. A job check can be submitted for any role that pays over the median wage (currently $29.66 p/h), unless the role is on the exemption list.
Before you can apply for a job check, you may need to advertise to be sure there are no New Zealand citizens or residents available for the job. You are required to advertise the role for at least two weeks on a national platform, such as Seek or Trade Me.
Roles on the ‘Green List’ do not require advertising, provided the candidate meets the listed qualification, experience or pay requirements.
At the time of publication, landscape gardener roles are not on the green list, although construction project manager and site foreman roles are, so long as the candidate meets the minimum qualification, registration and requirements criteria.
If a role pays over twice the median wage ($59.32 p/h) then advertising can be avoided too.
Stage 3: Migrant Check
Once a job check has been approved, a token will be released to the migrant worker to allow them to submit an AEWV. The AEWV application will check that the applicant:
Is of good character.
Has an acceptable standard of health.
Meets the minimum qualification, experience and/or income requirements listed in the job check application.
The applicant needs to pass all three criteria. If their AEWV is approved, the migrant worker can take up the job under the conditions of their visa.
How long will AEWVs be valid?
Most AEWVs will be issued for three years.
How long does employer accreditation last?
Initial accreditation will be given for 12 months, and then 24 months (in most cases) on renewal.
What about my existing migrant workers on work visas?
Accreditation is not required to continue employing migrant workers on their existing work visas, but will be required when it comes to applying for new work visas for these workers.
For example, if you are not accredited, current holders of Essential Skills Work Visas won’t be able to continue working for you when their current visas expire.
Who can my business employ without being accredited?
Without accreditation, you will only have a limited pool of applicants (apart from NZ citizens and resident visa holders) to choose from when looking for an ideal employee.
Partners of AEWV holders who hold open work visas.
Partners of New Zealand citizens or residents who hold open work visas.
Working Holiday work visa holders.
Post Study Work visa holders.
What is happening in practice?
Since its introduction in July 2022, the AEWV system is now well bedded in. Early issues with online application forms are being ironed out, and processes are more streamlined.
While most employers who urgently required overseas workers have already engaged in the process, new applicants will need to ensure they file their applications in good time.
INZ is still working through a significant backlog of work, which means delays in processing times are inevitable. We recommend employers, who are looking to engage overseas workers, apply for the Employer Check as soon as possible.
There are also many potential hazards when it comes to the application process, which has tripped up even well-resourced employers. These hazards can delay the processing of applications and can lead to declined applications.
There are only very limited rights of appeal or review of declined decisions, so it is critical to get things right the first time around.
While some well-resourced employers may be able to navigate the application process themselves, caution is advised, and early engagement with your legal advisor may be necessary.
Mathew Martin is an associate and Saleha Hamid-Drew is a solicitor (foreign qualified) in
Martelli McKegg’s litigation team, both specialising in employment law. They represent and advise both employers and employees on a range of employment issues.
Mathew's phone number is +64 9 300 7631 and email is Mathew.Martin@martellimckegg.co.nz. Saleha's phone number is +64 9 950 9033 and email Saleha.Hamid Drew@martellimckegg.co.nz.
This article is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice.