New Zealand immigration announces visa changes for temporary workers

New Zealand immigration announces visa changes for temporary workers

The Government has announced visa changes to allow temporary migrant workers in New Zealand to continue to fill labour shortages. Employers are still expected to genuinely seek to fill job vacancies with New Zealanders.

Employer-assisted work visas extended by 6 months

Employer-assisted visas expiring from 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021 (inclusive) will be automatically extended by another 6 months. This applies to the following visas:

  • Essential Skills Visa
  • Work to Residence Visa
  • Special and Skilled work visas for China, Indonesia, South Korea, Philippines and Vietnam
  • Special category work visas for Japanese Interpreters and Thai Chefs
  • Employer-specific work visas granted under section 61 of the Immigration Act 2009
  • Fishing Crew Visa
  • Religious Worker Visa
  • Silver Fern Practical Experience Visa

Employer-assisted visas expiring from 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021 (inclusive) will be automatically extended by another 6 months.

Visas held by their partners and dependent children will also be extended.

Visa holders will receive confirmation of the extension from Immigration New Zealand by March 2021.

Lower-paid Essential Skills visa stand-down delayed for 12 months

The introduction of the stand-down period will be delayed until January 2022. The stand-down period means that Essential Skills visa holders earning less than the median wage must leave New Zealand after three years for one year before they can return.

Working Holiday Visas extended by 6 months

Working Holiday Visas that expire from 21 December 2020 to 30 June 2021 (inclusive) will be extended for 6 months. Conditions will be varied to allow the holders to continue in any employment that is not permanent in any sector until their visa expires. Any time limit on total work for one employer will no longer apply.

From 21 December 2020, Working Holiday Visa holders will no longer be transferred to the Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) work visa when their Working Holiday visa expires. Migrant workers already on an SSE Visa can still choose to work in the horticulture and viticulture sectors, or apply for an Essential Skills visa if they find alternate qualifying work.

2019 median wage in effect until July 2021

Immigration New Zealand will continue to use the 2019 median wage of $25.50 to determine visa conditions until at least July 2021, at which point it will rise to $27 an hour.

FAQs

Who is getting a visa extension?

Onshore employer assisted work visa holders (and their partners and dependent children) whose visas are expiring between 1 January and 30 June 2021 will have their visa automatically extended by another six months.

The following types of work visas will be extended:

  • Essential Skills
  • Work to Residence
  • Special and Skilled work visas for China, Indonesia, South Korea, Philippines and Vietnam
  • Special category work visas for Japanese Interpreters and Thai Chefs
  • Work visas granted under section 61 of the Immigration Act 2009 that specify an employer
  • Religious worker
  • Foreign fishing crew
  • Silver Fern Practical Experience

All Working Holiday visas will be extended for six months, and any existing work conditions varied, allowing the visa holders to work in any employment except permanent employment.

From 21 December 2020, Working Holiday visa holders will no longer be transferred onto a Supplementary Seasonal Employer (SSE) work visa when their Working Holiday visa expires. Migrants already on an SSE visa will remain able to work for the horticulture and viticulture sectors, or apply for an Essential Skills visa if they find alternate qualifying work.

Why will Working Holiday visas no longer be transferred to the Supplementary Seasonal Employer work visa?

New Zealand is faced with a labour shortage across many industries. Working Holiday visa holders can and do still choose to work for the horticulture industry. Migrants already on an SSE visa will remain able to work for the horticulture and viticulture sectors, or apply for an Essential Skills visa if they find alternate qualifying work.

What about migrants who have lost their job already? Will their visa still be extended?

Any migrants who are unable to meet the conditions of their visa should make arrangements to depart New Zealand or apply for a new visa that best suits their circumstances.

Can a person leave and then come back on their extended visa?

The purpose of the visa extension is to provide short-term certainty to employers and migrant workers in New Zealand. If a person leaves New Zealand they will be subject to the current border restrictions and it is unlikely they will be able to return on their extended visa.

Can I still apply for a Variation of Conditions to change employer or roles if my visa has been extended?

Yes, people whose visa has been extended can still apply for a Variation of Conditions. They will still be required to meet the relevant immigration instructions to be granted a Variation of Conditions.

When will people be notified?

INZ will be emailing people who are identified as eligible for the visa extension during December 2020.

A second email will be sent by March 2021 once the visa records are updated in our systems. It is expected that migrants who have had their visa extended will be notified via email.

When and how will I be notified of my extension?

INZ will be contacting eligible visa holders to inform them of the visa extension. A second email will be sent by March 2021 to confirm the visa extension in the system. We will use the most recent email address that you provided to us.

If you did not receive an email it may be because we do not have your current email address. Please check all your email inboxes, including the spam in case it is there.

From March 2021 you can confirm your visa expiry date by checking the Visa Verification Service on our website.  Employers can use Visaview to ensure employees have the right to work in New Zealand. Please note these details may not be up to date before March 2021. We are working to update all records as soon as possible.

I am on an Essential Skills visa and have lost my current job (made redundant). Can I get a Variation of Conditions as part of this automatic six month visa extension?

Visa conditions that require the visa holder to work in a specified occupation and for a specified employer remain in place under the extension. Any migrants who are unable to meet the conditions of their current visa, including migrants who have lost their jobs, should make arrangements to depart New Zealand or apply for a new visa that best suits their circumstances. This may include applying for a Variation of Conditions.

I lodged my application before the extensions were announced, and my work visa expires between 1 January and 30 June 2020.  If that application gets declined will I still receive the extension for 6 months?

Yes, the visa extension is automatic for most employer assisted work visa holders and will be applied for six months from the original visa expiry date. Even if your application for a new visa is declined, the extension will remain in place.

I employ a working holidaymaker who has a visa condition that they can only work 3 months for any one employer. Does the extension mean they can continue to work for me even if they exceed the 3 months?

Yes, along with the visa extension, work restrictions on Working Holiday visas will be loosened to allow the visa holder to continue work in any employment except permanent employment until the new expiry date of their visa. Any time limit on total work or for one employer will no longer apply. Working holidaymakers still cannot take permanent employment so if you wish to offer this, they must apply for an appropriate work visa.

My working holiday visa states I can only work for 12 months in total and 6 months for one employer. Does the extension allow me to work in excess of this limit?  

Yes, along with the visa extension work restrictions on Working Holiday visas will be loosened so you can choose to take on temporary work for any employer or in any industry until the new expiry date of your visa. The condition that you cannot take permanent employment on a working holiday visa still applies.

What about individuals on interim visas?

Interim visas are not automatically extended as part of this policy.

Can I get a refund if I have already submitted a new visa application but now have an extension?

Information about refunds is on the INZ website.

Why is the stand down period being delayed?

To provide certainty for employers in retaining their staff for longer during the response to COVID-19, even if their employee would have been subject to the stand-down period.

Why is INZ delaying increasing the median wage?

Statistics NZ has updated the median wage from $25.50 to $27.00. This 5.8% increase is unusually high and significant, due to some lower-paid roles dropping out of employment. INZ is delaying increasing the median wage that we use to assess applications until at least July 2021 to temporarily ease pressure on employers.

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