Changes to Partner Work Rights

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For many years, partners of work visa holders have been able to apply for unrestricted (open) work visas based on their relationship to Essential Skills Work Visa holders and, more recently, Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) work visas.

This is about to change. 

Where did this change come from?

In 2022, the government announced that partners of work visas would no longer be able to apply for work visas with open work rights, except in limited situations. 

This change was originally due to come into effect in early December 2022. However, much to the relief of both migrants and employers, the implementation of this new policy was delayed. 

What is the change and when does it happen?

This week, Immigration New Zealand announced that, from 31 May 2023, partners of Essential Skills and AEWV visa holders can apply for a restrictive type of work visa or visitor visas. 

What are the restrictive work visa conditions?

Partners of Essential Skills work visa holders and AEWV holders will be granted work visas that restrict them to only working for accredited employers and also requiring them to earn at least the median wage. The only exception to the median wage requirement is if they work in a role covered by an un-capped sector agreement. They can then be paid less than the median wage, as long as they are paid the wage threshold for their particular occupation. 

Partners will not need to have a job offer to apply for this work visa, which means they can find the job after they get the visa. 

What does this effectively mean?

This will limit the number of employers that partners of work visa holders can work for. It will also limit the type of jobs that they can undertake, as it appears that in most cases they will not be able to fill roles that are paid less than the median wage, such as those in the hospitality and agricultural sectors, unless their role is covered by an un-capped sector agreement.  

This announcement will cause concerns for employers at a time where there is a nationwide shortage of workers. At a time where New Zealand is also struggling to attract skilled workers to come to New Zealand, this policy will also make this country a less attractive destination.

Are there any exceptions?

Yes. Partners of AEWV holders earning twice the median wage and partners of AEWV holders working in an occupation on the Green List, will be given fully open work visa conditions. Therefore, they will not be required to work for accredited employers or earn at least the median wage. 

Any suggestions for managing this?

If appropriate, we recommend that employers encourage employees to ensure that their partners apply for or renew their work visas prior to 31 May.  

For initial advice on whether you are eligible now to apply for your first open partnership-based work visa or a subsequent one, please contact a member of our Immigration Team


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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