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Work visa rules changing – again!

In November 2023, the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) is set to change to allow a five-year maximum stay. This means holders of AEWV will only be able to work in New Zealand for up to five years

If the holder of an AEWV does not qualify for residence, they must leave New Zealand and cannot apply for another AEWV from offshore for 12 months or longer. This time spent offshore before applying to return is called a ‘stand-down period’.

Previously, an Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) could be granted for a maximum of three years and, provided the individual earned at least the median wage, there was no limit on the amount of time an AEWV holder could spend in New Zealand.

A person already working on an AEWV will be able to extend their visa up to the five-year maximum period once the new rules come into force on 27 November 2023. Time already spent working in New Zealand will count when the five-year maximum period is calculated.

Employers still need to satisfy Immigration NZ that there are no NZ citizens or residents suitable and available to do a job being filled by a migrant worker before the next AEWV is granted. Businesses may find the stand-down period difficult to manage when good workers get to the end of their five-year visa and then must leave the country.

Tougher rules for partners of migrant workers qualifying for work visas were rolled out on 31 May 2023. Partners issued with a partner work visa have the following visa conditions attached:

May only work for an accredited employer; and Cannot be self-employed; and Must be paid at or above the median wage (currently NZ$29.66 per hour and soon to go up to $31.61 per hour) unless working in jobs covered by certain sector agreements.

There is an exception when migrant workers hold a work visa based on a Green List occupation or are paid twice the median wage. In these cases, partners can work for any employer and the median wage rule does not apply.

At the time of publication, landscape gardener roles were not on the green list, although construction project manager and site foreman roles are.

Partners wanting to renew their current partner work visas should take immigration advice before they apply to make sure they qualify. People who applied before 31 May 2023 are now in a long processing queue, as there was a rush of applications before the old category closed.

Audits under way

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has started random desktop audits of accredited employers. An Immigration Officer may be in touch to request documents from your business including:

  • Time and wage records of migrant workers.

  • Evidence the business is viable and ongoing (financial records etc).

  • Evidence migrant workers were provided with settlement support information, including time at work to complete Employment NZ online courses.

  • Documents to show hiring managers completed mandatory Employment NZ online courses.

At this stage, unless there is serious evidence of non-compliance, INZ is taking an educative approach. Around 36 employers are under investigation for potential fraud or migrant exploitation, so no doubt the educative approach will change at some stage to a more strict regime.

Make sure you have your house in order to retain accreditation if employing migrant workers is key to your business. If your accreditation expires or is cancelled, your migrant workforce may be impacted. If you have doubts, take immigration advice now!

The Malcolm Pacific Immigration employer online tool helps your business and migrant workers keep mandatory records in one place. It has settlement information for migrant workers, allowing them to better understand working and living in New Zealand plus how to meet government regulations. If your business is not using this tool, contact our Employer team today at:


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