Changes to temporary work visas

After mid-2021, we are introducing a new 3-check visa application system and replacing six temporary work visas with one.

New visa application process

The new visa application process will be employer led. Before hiring a migrant on the new employer-assisted temporary work visa, employers will need to:

  • apply for accreditation
  • apply for a job check to make sure the role they want to fill cannot be done by New Zealanders, and
  • request a migrant worker to apply for a visa.

A new temporary work visa

The new employer-assisted work visa replaces these 6 work visas:

  • Essential Skills Work Visa
  • Essential Skills Work Visa — approved in principle
  • Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa
  • Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa
  • Silver Fern Job Search Visa (closed 7 October 2019)
  • Silver Fern Practical Experience Visa.

A new system with 3 checks

The system will introduce 3 checks before an employer can hire a migrant worker. These checks are:

  • the employer check — employers need accreditation to pass this
  • the job check
  • the migrant worker check.

Employer check

The employer check will replace 3 current employer schemes:

  • approval in principle (AIP) before an employer hires workers on an Essential Skills Work Visa
  • Accreditation as a Talent Accredited Employer, and
  • Labour Hire employers accreditation for Essential Skills work visas.

To pass the employer check you need accreditation in the new system. Only accredited employers can hire a migrant worker on the employer-assisted work visa.

Standard and high-volume accreditation

These 2 main accreditation levels are:

  • standard accreditation — for employers who want to hire 5 or fewer migrant workers, and
  • high-volume accreditation — for employers who want to hire 6 or more migrant workers.

This only includes employees you want to hire on employer-assisted work visas.

Franchisees and Labour Hire companies will need to meet additional criteria to get accredited.

When you are approved you will receive accreditation for 12 months. At renewal, some employers will be granted accreditation for 24 months.

Criteria for standard accreditation

To gain standard accreditation you must not be on a non-compliant stand-down list — a list of employers who have broken employment law.

You must also comply with all relevant industry and regulatory standards.

Criteria for high-volume accreditation

High-volume employers must commit to improving pay and employment conditions, as well as training and upskilling New Zealanders.

Application process

We will retain information you previously supplied when applying for renewed accreditation.

You will need a New Zealand Business Number (NZBN) so we can link your business information with the new platform.

The system will guide you to ensure you provide all the information we need.

You will need to pay the fee for the employer check.

INZ will work with employers to transition to the new accreditation process. More details about the new accreditation criteria will be provided to employers in early 2021.

Job check

The job check will confirm the job pays our market rate, the terms and conditions comply with our employment laws, and you have done a labour market test if you need to.

A labour market test shows you have genuinely advertised the role to New Zealanders and there are no New Zealanders available to do the job in that region.

Jobs paying 200% of the median wage and those on skills shortage lists do not need a labour market test.

You can only hire a migrant worker if the job check is passed. Employers pay for a job check.


Further policy work is being done on understanding the effects of COVID-19 on the wider labour market in New Zealand’s cities and regions. Requirements for a job check will consider the pay, skill level and location of the role. More information will be available in 2021.

Current labour market test requirements continue to apply for Essential Skills Visa applications.

Sector agreements

Some industries hire large numbers of migrant workers — sector agreements may be negotiated with them. Agreements will include a workforce plan and conditions that need to be met to recruit a temporary migrant worker for specific occupations in the sector.


Introduction of sector agreements has been delayed due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Migrant worker check

The migrant worker check is where the migrant work applies for a visa. It is the last in the new system. The migrant worker must show they meet INZ’s character, identity and health requirements, and have the skills to do the job before being granted a visa.

Migrant workers or employers pay for this check.

Further information on fees will be announced in early 2021.

Temporary work visas not affected

The following temporary work visas will not be changed by the new visa system:

  • Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Limited Visa
  • Working holiday schemes
  • Post-study Work Visa
  • Fishing Crew Work Visa
  • Religious Worker Work Visa
  • Specific Purpose Work Visa
  • partnership work visas including Partner of a Worker Work Visa, Partner of a New Zealander Work Visa and Partner of a Student Work Visa
  • work visas granted for international or humanitarian reasons, such as domestic staff of diplomats, consular and official staff, and for refugee or protection status claimants.

Policies continued

People who hold visas based on work paid below the median wage will still have to leave New Zealand for a 1-year stand down period after they have been working for 3 years.

The new visa will still have conditions specifying an employer, job and location. To change any of these the visa holder will still have to get a variation of conditions or apply for a new visa.

Current work visas remain valid until their expiry date if all employment conditions are met.

Progress so far

The Talent (Accredited Employer) work visa salary threshold is now 150% of the median wage (NZD $79,560).

The threshold for determining the conditions of an Essential Skills Visa is now the median wage.

How pay rates affect Essential Skills work visas

Further information

We will update this page in 2021 with information about changes as we respond to COVID-19.

Employers, industry bodies, regional organisations, recruitment advisers, immigration advisers and non-governmental organisations can subscribe to receive email updates.

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