The Minister of Immigration has just announced some significant changes to work visas that will affect most work visa holders.  The changes include:

Extending all existing employer-assisted temporary work visas (essential skills and work to residence) for people who are in New Zealand and whose visas are due to expire before the end of 2020 by six months.  
  •  That includes work visa holders whose visas are due to expire after 9 July, as well as those visas that were previously extended to 25 September under the Epidemic Management Notice. 
  • All other conditions of the original visa remain the same, including the specific occupation and specific employer and location. 
 Delaying the stand-down period for lower-paid workers until February 2021 instead of August 2020.  

 This time-limited change will enable lower-paid migrants who are subject to the stand-down between August 2020 and the end of December 2020 to stay in New Zealand and work for the same employer in the same occupation and location for up to a further six months, in line with their visa extension.  

  •  Important to note is that the stand down period will still apply if a migrant who is subject to the stand down moves to another lower-paid Essential skills work visa. 
  •  Any migrants who are subject to the stand-down period from February 2021 will still need to leave New Zealand for 12 months before they are able to apply for another lower-paid work visa. 
Reducing the duration of all new low-skilled essential skills visas from 12 months to six months for the next 18 months.  
  • This will apply to all new lower-paid Essential Skills work visa applications lodged from 10 July 2020 
  • These rules will be in place for 18 months (until 10 January 2022), and reviewed again at that time. 
  • Applications received prior to 10 July will still be granted a 12 months visa if approved. 
Moving from ANZSCO to wage determined visas 
  • After 27th July 2020, ANZSCO will no longer be used to determine the skill level of a job. Instead, those earning over the New Zealand median wage (currently $25.50/hour) may be eligible for a 3-year, higher-paid work visa, while those earning under this threshold may only be eligible for the lower-paid 6-month visa 
  •  These changes have been expected for some time However, the instructions regarding this change has not yet been released and we will keep you updated on changes and how these affect you. 
 Important points and frequently asked questions: 

 Median wage changes annually: The New Zealand median wage changes every year (usually around September to November) and therefore the $25.50/hour referred to will change again later in 2020. 

 Short window until 9th July for certain submissions: If you have a job where you are getting less than $25.50/hour and /or your visa is expiring before 27th July, and your work visa application is ready to submit, submit it before the 10th July, in order to potentially get a 12 month visa. 

 What happens after the extension date? If you are staying in your current employment and you are being paid less than $25.50/hour and your visa is expiring before 30 December 2020, you will get an extension for 6 months from your visa expiry date 

 Can I get further visas after that? After your extension date, if your job is paid under $25.50/hour, then your following visa will only be for 6 months. In addition, you may only be issued your next visa if there are no suitable New Zealanders available or readily trainable for the position. After that 6 months you’d need to go through the same process again, until you have been on lower-skilled visas for 3 years, at which point you will need to adhere to the stand-down rules which is to leave New Zealand for 12 months. 

 How do I avoid a stand-down period? In the future you will need to move into a higher paid job, getting paid more than $25.50/hour. There may be some other criteria introduced in the announcements of 27 July 2020 that may also be needed. 

 What if I am starting a job with a new employer? If you cannot do a variation of conditions on your current visa (there are specific rules around this) then you will need to apply for a new visa as normal, but new rules will apply. 

 What if my new job will pay $25.50/hour or more? In this case we suggest waiting until the 27th July 2020, to see the details of the new announcements. If your visa expires before then, please call one of Greenstone’s licenced immigration advisers. 

 Contact us if you have any questions or need advice on your visa. 

 Graydon Sharratt |Director & Licensed Immigration Adviser