Changes to employer-assisted temporary work visas being rolled out between now and 2021

Between now and 2021, the Government are making changes to the way employers recruit foreign workers. The changes aim to improve the temporary work visa system by ensuring foreign workers are only recruited for genuine shortages, while also providing incentives for employers to employ and train more New Zealanders.


The new changes to work visas will take place progressively over the next 18 months until early 2021. In the meantime, the visa application process remains the same and there are no changes to the status of current work visas.


While full details of the new policies are yet to be released, we've put together the below summary of current information. Further information is available on the New Zealand Immigration website and in a PDF for download here


As new information come to hand over the next 18 months, we'll be sharing it with you via our email newsletters, as well as here on our website and Facebook page. Meanwhile, if you have any questions, give us a call on 06 878 5454




The new changes aim to benefit employers by providing:


  • A more streamlined process for small businesses and businesses that represent low immigration risk.
  • Increased certainty earlier in the process for employers wanting to recruit foreign workers.
  • A system that takes into account the difference in labour market needs between different sectors and regions.




So, what exactly is changing?


Over the next 18 months, the changes announced by the Minister of Immigration will affect some employers and the migrant workers they employ. Here are the seven changes:


  1. One new temporary work visa that replaces six existing work visa categories.
  2. A new employer-led visa application process that will involve three stages.
  3. A strengthened labour market test for lower paid jobs with open access for higher-paid jobs in rural regions and lists in cities.
  4. New remuneration thresholds aligned to the median wage to determine skill level (in place of ANZSCO).
  5. An increased remuneration threshold for the new applications to Work to Residence - Talent (Accredited Employer) visa category.
  6. Reinstating the right for lower-paid workers to bring their families to New Zealand on visitor visas.
  7. Sector agreements to facilitate access to migrants for targeted sectors.


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




However, some things are not changing.


Some of the new visa requirements and processes will remain the same. These include:


  • Those currently working in New Zealand on a temporary work visa can continue to do so until it expires.
  • People who hold visas based on lower-skilled work will still have to leave New Zealand for a 1-year stand down period after they have been working here for three years.
  • The new visa will still have conditions specifying an employer, job and location, and a visa holder will still have to get a variation of conditions to change any of these.
  • New Zealand Immigration will still need to be satisfied there are no New Zealanders available for a job before they will grant a visa – in most cases, through the labour market test. For lower skilled or low-paid work, this will still require the employer to engage with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).
  • Other work visas and employer schemes such as the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme and working holiday visas are not impacted by the new changes.




Change 1. Some visas and employer schemes will be replaced.


From 2021 a new temporary work visa will replace these six existing 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
  • Silver Fern Practical Experience Visa


At the same time two employer schemes will be removed:


  • Approval in principle (AIP) before an employer hires workers on an Essential Skills Work Visa.
  • Accreditation as a Talent Accredited Employer.


Other work visas and employer schemes such as the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme and working holiday visas are not impacted by these changes.


More info on p3 of the Overview document (download PDF • 16p • 1.6MB)




Change 2. New employer-led process for employing migrant workers.


From 2021, employers wishing to employ migrant workers on the new temporary work visa will use a three-step process.


  • An employer check – it will be mandatory for all employers, including those with an existing accreditation, to be accredited under the new application process before they can hire migrants on the new work visa.
  • A job check – this will include checking that the job is paid in line with the New Zealand market rate and, in some cases, will include a labour market test to ensure New Zealand workers are not available.
  • A worker check – when the worker applies for a visa, they must show they meet the standard character, identity and health requirements, as well showing they have the skills to do the job they have been offered.


More info on p4-6 of the Overview document (download PDF • 16p • 1.6MB)




Change 3. Strengthening the labour market test.


As part of the labour market test, employers will have to:


  • Include the salary when advertising the job.
  • Provide information about low-paid jobs to MSD.
  • Accept potential workers referred by MSD for a low-paid job – although there are some exceptions.


Employers offering a high-paid job outside Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin will not have to do aclabour market test. Employers in these cities will still need to undertake a labour market test for any job they offer, unless it is on a skills shortage list.


More info on p7 of the Overview document (download PDF • 16p • 1.6MB)




Change 4. Simple remuneration threshold.


Under current settings, the Australia and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is used alongside remuneration thresholds to determine the skill band for a job, which affects the type of labour market test that applies and the conditions attached to a visa.


However, ANZSCO is outdated and does not work well for some occupations, and the current skill band system is overly complex. The new system will remove ANZSCO from the assessment for the Temporary Work Visa and will instead differentiate jobs by their remuneration.


More info on p7 of the Overview document (download PDF • 16p • 1.6MB)




Change 5. Talent Accredited Employers.


There are changes effective from October 2019 that Talent Accredited Employers need to be aware of. These employers will need to use the new process and New Zealand Immigration is working towards making this a streamlined transition.


More info on p8 of the Overview document (download PDF • 16p • 1.6MB)




Change 6. Visas for families of lower-paid migrant workers.


From mid-2020, low-paid migrant workers will be able to support family visas. Their partners and children younger than school age can apply for Visitor Visas for the duration of the work visa. School-age children can apply for student visas for the duration of the work visa.


More info on p9 of the Overview document (download PDF • 16p • 1.6MB)




Change 7. Sector agreements.


Some industries hire large numbers of migrant workers and the Ministry will negotiate sector agreements with them. Sector agreements will include a workforce plan and conditions they need to meet for recruiting temporary migrants for specified occupations in the sector. The first sector agreements will be negotiated by mid-2020.


More info on p10 of the Overview document (download PDF • 16p • 1.6MB)



Want to know more?


Please give Grow HR a call on 06 878 5454 for a chat about what these changes might mean for you and your business. Alternatively, follow the link below or download one of the relevant documents.



Links to more reading


New Zealand Immigration website (


General Overview – PDF Download – Changes to employer-assisted temporary work visas


For Employers – PDF Download – Changes to employer-assisted temporary work visas