From around mid 2020 changes will be made to the way the temporary visa system in New Zealand works.  You can read about these changes here.  Here are five reasons why these changes could be good news for dairy farm workers:

Reason 1: Partners and children can come to NZ with Low Skilled visa holders

The most positive aspect of the changes are that families of “low-skilled” workers will be able to come with them to New Zealand as long as they meet the minimum income threshold (currently $43,322.76). Partners will be on visitor visas and will have to apply for work visas in their own right if they want to work. However children will be able to obtain student visas and attend schools as domestic students. This is a major improvement on the current situation where it is very difficult for families of low-skilled visa holders, to come to New Zealand.

Reason 2: The dairy wage may mean that dairy workers can qualify for a longer visa

The median wage in New Zealand will become the new benchmark for determining “high-skilled” or “low skilled” visas. Currently the median wage is $25 per hour. Many dairy farming packages actually work out higher than this, unless a worker is working very long hours on farm.

For instance, a herd manager on a package (salary and accommodation) of $66,000 and working 50 hours per week will be on a salary per hour of $25.38/hour.

From mid-2020 onwards, salary and region will determine the length of a visa (up to 3 years in total); whether the employer needs to engage with the Ministry of Social Development; and also whether staff would have to return to their home country after three years (the “stand-down” policy).

If salary per hour is above median wage, it is likely that workers will qualify for three year visas and be able to support their families and not face a stand-down period.

If salary is below median wage, then length of visa will be determined by which region your job is in. Regions are being divided into (1) cities (2) higher-supply regions (a region with a variable or high number of people available for work and low unemployment or underemployment), and (3) lower-supply regions (a region with low number of people available for work and high number of jobs available.).

If your job is in a lower-supply region (currently identified as Waikato, Canterbury, Southland and Otago) then you may get a visa up to 3 years in length.

Reason 3: Possibly no labour market tests required

You will not need to show a labour market test for your position if the job you are offered is outside Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch or Dunedin AND you are being paid more than the median wage.

Reason 4: Employers will be accredited BEFORE the migrant applies for the visa so no more declined visas due to an employer issue

From around 2021, all employers will now have to be accredited. While this sounds like a major change, employer checks are being carried out by INZ already. The aim is to separate this leg of the application from the application by the migrant worker. Standard accreditation should be relatively straight forward, as long as the employer is not on the non-compliant list and complies with relevant industry or regulatory standards. Therefore, a migrant worker’s application will not be turned down because of an employer issue at great cost to the migrant, as is currently the case, as the employer would have failed accreditation at the first instance.

Reason 5:  Sector agreements may streamline the process

The INZ will be negotiating sector agreements for industries that hire large numbers of migrant workers. Dairy farming is one of those sectors. Under sector agreements employers will have more certainty about hiring migrant workers and the compliance costs will likely be lower than they currently are, with less paperwork and faster processing.

If you have any questions about these changes contact us.

By Graydon Sharratt: Director & Licensed Immigration Adviser