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Immigration NZ announces significant changes to how migrant workers are employed

Immigration New Zealand has announced a variety of changes to work visas and how migrant workers are employed.</p

These changes will be happening in stages over the next 18 months and will be completed in 2021.

Two of the most significant changes are:

  1. Employers will need to be accredited employers in order to hire migrant workers.
  2. Sector Agreements will apply to some industries.

Requirements to be an accredited employer:

From 2021 employers will need to be accredited to hire migrants on a work visa.

Some of the details on how this will work are yet to be announced. We expect to hear the following confirmations in 2020:

  • how and when employers will need to be accredited
  • how long the process will take
  • the cost
  • what evidence the employer will need to provide Immigration
  • how to manage the application when the employer does not know how many migrant workers they will employ in a year

There are three levels of accreditation:

1. Standard accreditation

For employers who want to hire 1-5 migrant workers in a year.

The intention is for this process to be quick and straightforward. This accreditation will last for 12 months and then 24 months on renewal.

To gain this level of accreditation employers:

  • must not be on a non-compliant stand-down list (a list of employers who have broken employment law)
  • must comply with any relevant industry or regulations standards
  • have no history of non-compliance with Immigration NZ.

2. High volume accreditation

For employers who want to hire more than five migrant workers in a year.

This accreditation will last for 12 months and then 24 months on renewal.

As well as meeting the requirements for the standard accreditation, in order to get this level of accreditation employers will:

  • have to make commitments to training and upskilling New Zealanders
  • increase wages and conditions for workers

It is expected that this process to gain this level will be similar to what the current process is to become accredited right now.

3. Labour hire employer accreditation

Requirements are the same as the high volume accreditation.

Labour hire accreditation will need to be renewed every 12 months.


When will you need to be accredited by?

From 2021 employers will need to be accredited to hire migrants on a work visa.

The requirement to be accredited will be staggered to prevent all employers needing to be accredited from the same date to prevent applications being bottle-necked at Immigration. However, we suspect that there will still be significant delays with Immigration New Zealand having to process every employer in New Zealand who wishes to hire people on work visas.

How we can help:

If you would like advice on how this will impact your business and how you can get prepared for the application process, please let us know.

We can work with you to set up employment documentation and practices to help you become accredited.

We also have a Minimum Entitlement Review where we look at your documentation, time and wage records and practices to ensure you are complying with your obligations as an employer. You will not be able to become accredited if your business is on the non-compliant stand down list or if you have any history of not complying with Immigration. If you wish to become accredited in order to hire workers on visas, then we suggest you have this review completed by us. This will identify any breaches and we can help you correct them. This will minimise the risk of your business being blacklisted from becoming accredited.

You may wish to ensure you are compliant and even become accredited before these changes are in place to avoid significant delays with your accreditation application.

Sector Agreements

From October 2019, Immigration will begin negotiating sector agreements. Sector agreements will apply to industries that have a high reliance on temporary foreign workers (especially in lower-paid jobs). The first two industries will be:

  • residential care (including aged care)
  • meat processing.

It is expected these two Sector Agreements will be completed by mid-2020.

At this stage, the other four industries are:

  • Dairy
  • Forestry
  • Road freight transport
  • Tourism and hospitality

It is likely that the construction, horticulture and viticulture industries will have sector agreements too.

The objectives of the sectors agreements are:

  1. Improve wages and employment conditions
  2. Reduce reliance on lower-paid employer-assisted temporary foreign workers overtime
  3. Incentivise the employment, training and upskilling of New Zealanders.

Sectors agreements will need to include:

  1. A starting point that sets out information about the sector and its workforce, such as labour supply
  2. The sectors plan to employ more New Zealanders and to reduce its reliance on temporary foreign workers. This is to include the commitments made to address the barriers to employing New Zealanders (such as improving wages and conditions, training and upskilling)
  3. Special rules for access to foreign temporary workers in the designated occupation over the duration of the agreements. Such as additional benefits with Immigration in exchange for faster progress in delivering the objectives of the sector agreement.

Immigration will also introduce a compliance and monitoring regime to ensure the employers in the particular industry are delivering progress to the commitments in the Sector Agreement.

Employers will not be able to opt-out of Sector Agreements.

How we can help:

If you would like any advice or to discuss this will impact your business, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

We are also available to provide advice and representation in the negotiating of Sector Agreements when the time comes.


This article, and any information contained on our website is necessarily brief and general in nature, and should not be substituted for professional advice. You should always seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters addressed.

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