PuzzledYesterday (yes on Sunday) the Immigration Minister announced a number of significant changes effective immediately.

The changes largely reflect the Government’s concern that, in a deteriorating economic environment, lower skilled positions need to be robustly tested to ensure there are no New Zealanders emerging for these positions.  Visa applicants must have the skills, be able to prove those skills through experience or qualifications to undertake these roles, and have the English language ability to match.

These changes largely affect lower-skilled occupations (ANZSCO level 4 and 5). We are really seeing a return to the previous ”Essential Skills” processes, where the focus returns again to ANZSCO skill levels and work experience/qualifications for visa applicants with the use of Work and Income to help determine availability of New Zealander resident and citizens.

The changes apply to new Job Check and AEWV applications. They do not affect visa applications if they have already been submitted and they do not impact the current visa conditions or length of AEWV visa holders.

Importantly, if employers have an approved Job Check and tokens that have not yet been used, any migrant who now applies for an AEWV will need to meet the new rules.

The main changes are listed below.

1. AEWV’s

A. Changes to requirements for new AEWVs

This is the change with arguably the most impact on new AEWV applications. Applicants will be required to meet a new minimum skill threshold and provide evidence of relevant qualifications and work experience to do the job applied for.

From today, work visas for all level occupations can only be applied for if the applicant meets one of the following requirements:

  • 3 years of relevant experience
  • A relevant Level 4 or above qualification (with NZQA qualification assessment)
  • A bachelor degree in any field
  • Meets Green list requirements for a particular occupation
  • If assessed in previous applications for the same role


B. English requirements for lower-skilled work visas

Any migrants in ANZSCO level 4 or 5 occupations will now need to meet a minimum standard of English.
The requirements are fairly low at IELTS 4.0, PTE 29, TOEFL 31, etc. High-level qualifications from NZ, Australia, UK, Ireland, US or Canada, may also meet these requirements.
Note the requirements for English and minimum skill thresholds above are not required for job changes/variations of conditions.


C. Maximum continuous stays

New AEWV applicants in ANZSCO level 4 or 5 occupations will receive shorter visas and have a reduced maximum length of time they can stay in New Zealand on an AEWV (in most cases this is reduced from 5 years to 3 years).

Importantly, some current AEWV holders working in these occupations, will no longer be able to apply for the balance of the five-year AEWV introduced last year.

Higher-skilled visa holders, Green list visa holders, transport sector visa holders and those paid at or above 1.5x the NZ median wage (currently $47.41 per hour) continue to have a 5-year maximum continuous stay.


2. Residence changes:

Immigration NZ also announced that some of the planned additions to the Green List and the Construction and Infrastructure Sector Agreement will not happen.

The Work to Residence pathway for bus and truck drivers is also closing to applicants who are not already working (or have applied for work visas) in a qualifying role.

It has also been announced that high school leavers who are awaiting the outcome of a family residence application will soon be granted work rights. This change will come into effect around the middle of this year. This will be welcome news for many.


3. Immigration changes affecting Employers: See also our separate blog on changes affecting employers.

Contact us to talk about how these changes may affect you.

Renee Asici

Licensed Immigration Adviser 201900887