Immigration changes - accreditation update and recent announcements

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Immigration New Zealand has recently announced several positive changes that are important to accredited employers. 

This article provides information about what has changed, the occupations which now provide a pathway to residence, as well as information for employers to be aware of. 

What are the Updates to the Green List?

In December, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) announced that they would be expanding the list of occupations on the Green List. 

Last week, we received confirmation, that External and Internal Auditors will be included in the Green List (Tier 1) from 29 May 2023. This means that both internal and external auditors can apply for residence under the Straight to Residence category, provided they meet the eligibility requirements. For auditors to be eligible for residence under the Green List, they must earn at least 1.3 times the median wage. This currently equates to $38.56 per hour. 

Also from 29 May 2023, a range of occupations have been added to the Green List (Tier 2), meaning that after working in one of these occupations for two years, they can apply for a resident visa. This includes a range of Teachers (including primary, intermediate, secondary, and special education), Telecommunications Technicians, Motor Mechanics, some specific civil machine operators (such as Bulldozer Operators), Crane Operators, Drainlayers, Gasfitters, Halal Slaughterers, and Civil Construction Supervisors. All roles have specific Green List requirements, either in terms of qualifications or remuneration. 

The expansion to both Tier 1 and Tier 2 of the Green List provides residency pathways to more workers in New Zealand, makes the Accredited Employer Work Visa process mores streamlined and, will allow them to sponsor their partners for open work visas. 

What is the new Transport sector agreement?

To support critical national infrastructure, the Government has entered into a transport sector agreement. Provided they meet the requirements, Bus and Truck Drivers, Skippers and Deck Hands can all apply for residency, after working in their role, for two years. Applications open on 29 September 2023, if an applicant has worked in their qualifying role, for two years.

In addition, Bus Drivers have a median wage exemption, and can be paid $28, as opposed to the general median wage requirement of $29.66 per hour. 

What is the Employer Accreditation System? 

The last year has seen the implementation of a new accreditation system for employers. The revamped accreditation system seeks to implement better protections for migrant workers, by ensuring that only compliant employers hold accreditation, whilst attempting to ensure that New Zealand workers, have the first option, with employment opportunities.  

While the new system has provided a challenge, many businesses have been pleased about the (usually) swift approvals of accreditation applications. After gaining accreditation, and thereafter dealing with Job Check and Accredited Employer Work Visa applications, a lot of employers have not had time to think about their ongoing compliance obligations. 

In that light, it is important to keep in mind, that INZ has announced that “Post-accreditation checks are underway”. 

What are the post-accreditation checks?

Any employer that is accredited, may be selected by INZ for a compliance check. Immigration New Zealand has not announced how they select who will be reviewed but has confirmed that 15% of accredited employers will be checked.  

It is therefore important, for all accredited employers to ensure that they are compliant with both their immigration and employment obligations. We recommend keeping documentary evidence, so that if your organisation is selected for review, it is a swift and straightforward process. Your organisation may also wish to have its policies and processes reviewed, as well as any relevant records checked, to ensure it is compliant, in advance of any proposed review. 

What will INZ be checking?

The compliance checks are to ensure that the employer and its key people have not breached the minimum compliance requirements. This includes (but is not limited to) employing migrants without the appropriate right to work, ensuring that migrants have been given the opportunity to complete the online employment law modules, and checking that anyone making recruitment decisions, in the employer’s business has also completed the designated online employment law modules. 

INZ has indicated that, if an employer is selected for the compliance review process, they may request:

  • evidence of PAYE payments to migrant employees;
  • financial statements to demonstrate financial viability;
  • evidence of how offshore recruitment agents of their migrant employees were paid;
  • hiring dates of migrant employees;
  • evidence that settlement information was provided to migrant employees;
  • logs of hours worked by migrant workers; 
  • information on which key persons are involved in the business, and their role; and
  • evidence that the online employment law modules have been completed. 

They have also indicated that MBIE staff may conduct site visits, to gather information. We expect that this function will be utilised largely for franchise and third-party accreditation checks, where there are additional compliance requirements. 

We strongly recommend that all accredited employers, keep a record of when the key people completed their employer modules and, when employees completed their employee modules. All accredited employers declared, in their accreditation application, that they would provide migrant employees with time to complete these and all employees making recruitment decisions would also complete the employer modules.  

What is the potential outcome?

If INZ concludes that an accredited employer is not meeting their compliance obligations, they will communicate concerns, in writing, requesting a response. 

The response will then determine INZ’s decision. It can make suggestions for improvement, or it can take more serious action, such as the suspension or revocation of the employer’s accreditation, the imposition of a stand-down period and/or fines, potentially both for the company and the individuals involved.  

Seek immigration advice

If you have been offered a role in an occupation on the Green List or are an accredited employer who wishes to offer a role to a migrant, you may wish to seek professional immigration advice. 

If you are an Accredited Employer who wants to ensure you are complying with the necessary requirements or receives a letter from Immigration New Zealand outlining concerns regarding accreditation compliance, it is important to obtain tailored advice for your circumstances, as soon as possible. This could impact the outcome of the review and have lasting business implications. 

Special thanks to Special Counsel Nicky Robertson and Solicitor Cheri-Rose Smith for preparing this article. For more information, please contact a member of our Immigration Law 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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