Changes to working in New Zealand on a temporary work visa

If you are a migrant worker, find out about how temporary work visas are changing and when the changes will happen.

What is changing and when

If you are already in New Zealand on a temporary work visa, your existing visa status will not change.

Most of the changes that we are planning affect employers more than migrant workers and will not happen until 2021, but there are some changes happening very soon especially if you are planning to apply for:

  • a Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa, or
  • a Silver Fern Job Search Visa.

Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa

There are some immediate changes that affect new applicants for the Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa. If you applied before 7 October 2019 the changes do not affect you.

Changes to the Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa

Silver Fern Job Search Visa

From 7 October 2019 you will no longer be able to apply for a Silver Fern Job Search Visa. If you already have a Silver Fern Job Search Visa, you can still apply for a Silver Fern Practical Experience Visa.

[Link to news item] The Silver Fern Job Search Work Visa will close permanently

Changes in 2020

From the middle of 2020, if you hold an Essential Skills Work Visa based on a low-skilled job your partner and children will be able to apply to come to New Zealand on a visitor visa for the length of your visa.

We will also be changing how we decide if a job is low-skilled or high-skilled. Currently, we use a system based on the rate of pay and the classification of the job in the ANZSCO. From mid-2020, we will replace this with a system based only on the pay of the job.

Changes in 2021

In 2021, we will be:

  • replacing 6 temporary work visas with a new temporary work visa, and
  • improving the process that employers use to recruit migrant workers for temporary work.

Keeping up to date with the changes

We are still working on how we implement some of the changes. As more details are finalised we will update our website information.

We have prepared a fact sheet that explains in more detail the changes that are planned and how they affect current visa holders and migrants planning to work in New Zealand.

Changes to employer-assisted temporary work visas — what does this mean for foreign workers? PDF 1MB

Bringing family

Currently people who hold Essential Skills work visas based on a lower-skilled job cannot bring family to New Zealand with them.

By the middle of next year, if you are a low-paid or lower-skilled worker, you will be able to bring your partner and dependent children to New Zealand for the length of your work visa if you continue to meet a minimum income threshold.

Your partner will be able to apply for a Visitor Visa. If they want to work in New Zealand, they must get a work visa in their own right.

Your dependent children will be able to apply for a Visitor Visa, if they are under school age, or a student visa. They will be able to study at primary and secondary school as domestic students as long as you and your partner can support them while they are in New Zealand. If your children want to study at tertiary level they will pay the same fees as other full-fee paying international students.

Visas that are being replaced in 2021

From 2021 you will no longer be able to apply for:

  • Essential Skills Work Visa
  • Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa
  • Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa.

The Silver Fern Practical Experience Visa will remain open for existing Silver Fern Job Search visa holders only.

No other temporary work visas are affected by the changes, including working holiday visas and Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Limited Visas.

If you hold a visa that is being replaced

If you already hold a work visa that we are replacing, it will remain valid until it expires.

If you want to continue working for your current employer after your visa expires, you will need to apply for the new temporary work visa or another visa you qualify for.

If you already hold a Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa or a Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa, you can still apply for residence based on your current work visa.

Applying for the new temporary work visa

From 2021 employers will lead the visa application process for this new visa. Before they offer you a job they must be an accredited employer and, in some cases, will have to check that no New Zealander is available to fill the role. As part of this check they may have to do a labour market test.

When you apply for the new temporary work visa, you will need to meet our normal identity, health and character checks. You will also need to show that you have the right skills and qualifications to do the job you have been offered.

What an accredited employer is

An accredited employer has been approved by us to employ migrant workers. We are still working through what employers need to do to become accredited, but it will include being compliant with the immigration system.

Employing migrant workers — what is changing

High-skilled and low-skilled jobs

We will no longer use ANZSCO to determine the skill band of a job. Currently, the skill band of a job — that is, whether it is low- mid- or high-skilled — is determined through a combination of the pay and the ANZSCO classification. The skill band of a job determines:

  • if a visa can be granted for longer than 12 months
  • if the person holding a visa can stay in New Zealand for more than 3 years without having to leave
  • whether the person holding the visa can support their partners and children to come to New Zealand.

From mid-2020 onwards, these factors will be decided by what you pay a migrant worker instead of skill bands. Using the median wage, currently $25 an hour, a worker can be:

  • low-paid, if they are paid below the New Zealand median wage, or
  • high-paid, if they are paid at or above the New Zealand median wage.

How the median wage is calculated

Stats NZ calculate the median wage and update it at least once a year. We will update the median wage for migrant workers in November each year based on calculations supplied by Stats NZ.

Labour market statistics (income): June 2019 quarter

How we decide your visa conditions and duration

The duration of your visa will be decided from the information in your application and information provided by your employer, including:

  • how much you are paid, and
  • where in New Zealand you will work.

For example, in most cases, for low-paid work we will only grant you a visa for 1 year, but if you are offered low-paid work in a rural area or small town that has proven difficulty finding workers we can grant you a for up to 3 years.

[Link]: Managing labour markets in New Zealand cities and regions

Employers from some industries, such as residential care (including residential aged care) and meat workers, will negotiate agreements with us so they can more easily employ migrant workers. We call these sector agreements. If a sector agreement applies to the job you are offered, your employer must employ you according to the terms of the agreement with that industry sector.

[Link] Employing migrant workers under a sector agreement

Changing your visa conditions

The new temporary work visa will specify your employer, your job and the location of work. You will still be able to vary the conditions of your visa. We plan to streamline the rules before the new application process begins.

How long you can stay on the new temporary work visa

Some rules about how long you can stay will not change, but if you plan to stay in New Zealand permanently there will be some changes.

Lower-skilled and low-paid workers can work for a maximum of 3 years

If you work in New Zealand in a low-skilled job, after 3 years you must leave the country. If you want to return you must spend at least 12 months outside New Zealand first before you apply for another work visa. We call this a stand-down period. Stand-down periods will still apply to low-paid work if you get a new temporary work visa.

How long you can stay on an Essential Skills Work Visa – stand-down period for lower-skilled workers

Getting residence

There will be a new residence visa for some people holding the new temporary work visa. To apply for residence based on the new temporary work visa you will need to:

  • be paid over 200% of the median wage, and
  • have worked in New Zealand for 2 years.

As is the case for all work visa holders now, anyone on the new temporary work visa will be able to apply for other residence visas — for example, a Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa — at any time while they hold their work visa.