New Zealand scraps six working visa categories to introduce one temporary working visa

2019-09-19 11:45 -
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(PHOTO: Jared Ruttenberg)

As South African emigration queries spike, those considering a possible move to New Zealand should note new working visa changes set to come into effect by 2020.

On 17 September 2019, the New Zealand government announced that it will be replacing a total of six working visa categories by replacing it with a single temporary work visa. 

Changes are expected to start coming into effect by 2020, with the process of how employers recruit migrants for temporary work to be impacted. Kiwi Immigration Minister, Iain Lees-Galloway told The New Zealand Herald that approximately 30 000 businesses across New Zealand could see massive benefits from these proposed changes to the temporary work visa process programme. 

But what about foreign workers? 

The new work visa will be an employer-led visa, which aims to reduce exploitation of workers, help plug crucial shortages in various sectors, and up the overall conditions for workers - with a big focus on employing locals. 

READ: SA visa reform kicks in as New Zealand and 6 other countries given free entry 

This streamlines the process, both for ensuring that the temporary visa is authorised by the employer, and that the place of work in accredited to recruit foreign workers. More thorough checks will mean less chance of exploitation and better work conditions. A single visa is also set to simplify the process to a certain extent.

However, scrapping categories that offered work visas under 'Essential Skills' and 'Long Term Shortage List' are of concern to the Migrant Workers Association, according to RZN. Most agree that the changes will help the New Zealand workforce, as businesses will be motivated and incentivised to make their jobs more appealing to locals, but foreign workers would have to do a lot more hoop-jumping to be considered for a position. 

One big positive related to this overhaul, however, is that the new visa rules has reinstated the ability for lower-paid workers to bring in their families to live in NZ. 

The new process will be designed over the next 18 months, and therefore New Zealand Immigration says not a lot of detail is yet available. (This includes information about fees, processing times and evidence that employers and migrants will have to provide in support of their applications.)

NOTE: The first set of changes will happen on 7 October 2019 and will only affect Talent Accredited Employers.

What this means for South Africans

Currently, South Africans need a visa to enter Kiwi territory - whether that is for tourism or work. New Zealand doesn't grant working holiday visas to South Africans, however it does offer Essential Skills and Long Term Shortage List work visas. With these proposed changes, those currently on these work visas will be able to continue working on that visa until its expiry date. Thereafter, it would have to be reviewed by said employer and under new temporary work visa regulations as changes start to take effect. 

The changes in a nutshell as detailed by the New Zealand Herald
-Replacing six current employer-assisted work visa categories with one new visa called the Temporary Work Visa

-Introducing a new employer-led visa application process that will involve three stages: the employer check; the job check; and the worker check

-Linking visa conditions directly to pay by replacing existing skill bands with a simple remuneration threshold aligned to the median wage

-For higher-paid jobs, replacing the current set of skills shortage lists with lists for cities and open access for regions

-Strengthening the labour market test for lower-paid jobs and removing it altogether for highly-paid jobs in rural regions

-Increasing the remuneration threshold for the Work to Residence – Talent (Accredited Employer) visa category, as a transitional measure until this visa is closed

-Reinstating the ability for lower-paid workers to bring their families to New Zealand

-Introducing sector agreements to support facilitated access to foreign workers in exchange for progress towards longer-term labour market improvements that place more New Zealanders into jobs in the sector and reduce the sector's reliance on temporary foreign workers.

*Compiled by Marisa Crous

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