Just prior to Christmas, on 21 December 2020, Immigration NZ dropped some last minute changes with no forewarning. Fortunately, these appear to be largely positive for migrant workers as well as employers. As follows:
Visa Expiries for Lower Paid Visas Have Been Extended
Those holding Essential Skills Work Visas which are expiring between 1 January and 30 June 2021 have been automatically extended by 6 months. So, for example, if the visa was due to expire on 22 February 2021, then it would now expire 22 August.
Visa holders should have received a notification from INZ or, if you’re a FRENZ immigration client, then from us. However, INZ has allowed themselves through to March to complete notifications, so if you haven’t heard by mid-February or if your expiry date is coming up, you can contact INZ or us.
Stand Down has been deferred until 2022
To remind, INZ have a rule whereby workers have 36 months from their first visa post 27 August 2017 to work in New Zealand. Once these 36 months have been reached, the worker must leave NZ for a year before being allowed to apply to return. This applies to those holding less than 3 year visas.
INZ have also deferred stand down until 2022.
Median Wage is Held…for now
In 2020, INZ changed the way that they were assessing skill level (and thus visa duration and related rights) from ANZSCO to remuneration based on what hourly wage a worker was being paid relative to the median wage. This median wage is determined by the annual (November) release by NZ Stats.
Currently its set at $25.50 per hour; those eligible for a 3 year visa have a guaranteed $25.50 for each hour worked. This is based on a combination of base salary and accommodation value against work hours
Those whose pay doesn’t meet these criteria are only eligible for 6 month visas.
The median rate was expected to go up in November; however, INZ have guaranteed that they will hold the currently $25.50 hourly rate until July and that the next hourly rate will go to $27 per hour.
Understandably COVID is driving much of the lack of communication coming from INZ as to their future plans beyond what was put out in 2019 regarding changes to visa structure and employer accreditation. Of these, we are still awaiting direction on Accreditation and work on sector agreements which were supposed to have been completed and underway by now, respectively.
Recent actions with regards to rules and regulations that come from INZ are quite reactive and with little warning. In addition, there is an increased scrutiny on labour market tests for lower and higher paid visas despite MBIE having eliminated the requirement for WINZ listing in some ‘undersupplied’ areas. INZ are also looking very closely at employer drafted employment agreements and pushing back where they feel clauses are missing or mis-stated.
Based on these recent INZ behaviours, we suggest that employers and migrants don’t rely on extensions but, where possible, lock in current rules to avoid any surprises down the road – particularly as we head into calving season.