Changes to Accredited Employer Work Visas – maximum visa duration and compulsory time outside of New Zealand

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Special Counsel

Immigration New Zealand has confirmed the details of changes, coming into effect on 27 November, that will impact all migrants with Accredited Employer Work Visas (AEWVs) and their employers.

Longer visas

From 27 November, all AEWVs will be issued for a period of five years, if the migrant is earning at or above the median wage. Currently, such visas are issued for a maximum of three years. The median wage is currently $29.66 per hour. This will increase in February.

In addition, some migrants earning less than the median wage will also gain five-year AEWVs. These include those working in the care workforce, earning the Level 4 rate under the Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlements Act 2017, and those working as Bus Drivers, and those working in some jobs in the Seasonal Snow Adventure Tourism Sector, such as Snowsport Instructors and Snow Groomers.

Migrants working in the care workforce, earning at the Level 3 rate under the Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlements Act 2017, will be eligible for three year AEWVs. Currently, they are only eligible for two year AEWVs.

Extending current visas in November

Anyone with an AEWV will be able to apply for that visa to extended out to the maximum period, on 27 November.

Employers will not need to obtain a new Job Check to facilitate extending an employee’s visa to the maximum period. The previous Job Check number can be re-used. This is as long as the employment is in the same location, the same occupation, and the employee is earning at least as much as he or she was with the initial visa application.

Mandatory time outside New Zealand

The government has also confirmed that AEWV holders must complete a “required time spent outside of New Zealand” before being eligible for a further AEWV. In most cases, the required time will be 12 months.

This is likely to mean that an AEWV holder will only be able stay in New Zealand for a total of five years, before having to leave the country for at least 12 months. In other words, he or she must either obtain a different type of visa, such as residence, or leave at the end of his or her five-year AEWV.

The government has indicated that AEWV holders who are on a recognised pathway to residence, but needing more time to gather the necessary work experience to qualify, may be able to obtain a further AEWV, despite the five-year limit. However, the details of how this will work have not yet been published.

What does this mean?

It is good that the maximum duration of AEWVs have been extended out to five years for many migrants. This gives more stability to employers and their businesses.

However, the fact that an employee may not be able to remain at the end of their five-year AEWV is concerning for many businesses trying to plan their workforce. Further, recent changes limiting the work rights of migrants’ partners is also having an impact. Therefore, it is important for employers and migrant employees to plan for a pathway to residence.

Now is a good time to start the process, as the details of the new Skilled Migrant Category have just been published, and the Work to Residence pathways for care workers and Bus Drivers have been extended.

Our immigration team are well placed to assist – please do contact us if we can help.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.

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