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Kiwis prioritised in AEWV changes

Immigration Minister Erica Stanford has outlined changes to the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) to prioritise higher skilled migrants and ensure New Zealanders are employed before anyone from overseas 

Speaking to TVNZ’s politics show Q+A in February, the Minister indicated she wants to reduce net migration from its current number of 126,000 per annum. Now, changes have been made to the AEWV which reduce the length of time some workers can stay in New Zealand introduce a higher threshold for employers to show they tried to employ New Zealanders first.

Low skills to go Kiwi first

“We [have been] flooded with a bunch of low-skilled migrants rather than people who will drive productivity,” said Stanford. “I’m faced with [changing] our settings to have a stringent labour market test, so jobs are genuine and we’re putting Kiwis first.” 

To satisfy this change, employers must lodge vacancies for Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) level 4 and 5 occupations (which are usually areas such as labourers) with Work and Income, plus advertise the job nationally for at least 21 days, rather than 14. 

Employers will also need to satisfy Immigration NZ (INZ) that they could not find Kiwis to fill the vavancy, and will need to take reasonable steps to ensure migrant workers are suitably qualified and experienced. Proving suitable qualification involves either three years relevant work experience or a relevant qualification assessed as comparable to a Level 4 or higher NZ qualification.

There is also a new requirement for employers to employ AEWV holders for at least 30 hours per week. INZ can revoke employer accreditation for those who do not meet this criteria.

Shorter stay for ANZSCO 4 or 5

Migrants employed on ANZSCO 4 or 5 jobs can now stay for a maximum length of two years, with the ability to apply for a third year following a Job Check. Previously, the maximum length of stay was five years.

“The total time you can stay in New Zealand (also called a maximum continuous stay) on one or more AEWVs is reduced to three years. When you get to the end of your maximum continuous stay you will need to leave New Zealand for a specified amount of time — normally 12 months — before you can apply for another AEWV,” says INZ.

The changes will apply to anyone who applied for their first AEWV on or before 7 April 2024 or before 21 June 2023.

Additionally, employees who applied for their first AEWV before 21 June 2023 and are in an ANZSCO level 4 or 5 job paying above the required AEWV rate, and hold a three-year AEWV, will no longer be able to access the maximum visa length of five years.

However, the following ANZSCO level 4 and 5 jobs won’t be affected:

  • Green list jobs.

  • Jobs earning 1.5 times the median wage.

  • Jobs on a pathway to residence.

Additionally, the median wage has been increased from $29.66 to $31.61 an hour for the assessment of Skilled Migrants (points system) residence visa, Greenlist Tier 1 Straight to Residence visa, Greenlist Tier 2 Work to Residence visa, Transport Sector Work to Residence (excluding bus drivers) visa and Parent Residence category (sponsors’ income). 

It’s important to note that the increased median wage does not apply to AEWV applicants. It also does not apply to Variation of Conditions to an AEWV, Partners of AEWV holders, Skilled Migrant Interim Visas and Migrant Exploitation visas. 

Visa investigation

Prior to the announced changes, a report on the AEWV was released, covering all aspects of employer accreditation and job check processes undertaken by INZ as part of the AEWV scheme. 

The report makes a number of recommendations to reduce the risk of exploitation, among other things. 

In light of the review and new regulation, employers who have multiple sites around New Zealand must also be mindful of several conditions listed on the AEWV. For example, if a migrant is required to work across different regions, an employer needs to have carried out a job check in each region.


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