Employer-assisted work visas and regional workforce planning

Employer Assisted Work Visas and Regional Workforce Planning - Hospitality New Zealand

The Government have released their Employer-assisted work visas and regional workforce planning consultation documents.

They say:

The proposals primarily impact all skilled and lower-skilled temporary migrant workers and employers of these workers across the six employer-assisted temporary work visa categories:

  • Essential Skills including the Essential Skills in Demand Lists (ESID)
  • Approval In-Principle
  • Talent (Accredited Employer)
  • Work to Residence – Long-term Skill Shortage List Occupation
  • Silver Fern (Practical Experience)
  • Silver Fern (Job Search)

The proposals will also have implications for industry associations, economic development agencies, local government, iwi, trade unions, education providers and other regional stakeholders that have an interest in labour market outcomes.

Employer-assisted visas are generally those in which an employer can demonstrate through labour market tests that there are no suitable domestic workers available. Around 20 percent (47,000) of the 230,000 temporary work visas issued in 2017/18 were employer-assisted.

The remaining temporary work visas have ‘open’ work conditions, meaning the visa holder may work in any job. These visas include visas for working holidays, partners of workers and New Zealanders, and post-study work. These visas are out of scope. Temporary work visas obtained under the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme are subject to a separate review process and are therefore also out of scope.

The proposal includes that compulsory employer accreditation is introduced for all employers who want to recruit temporary migrant workers, and minimum standards that must be met. An indicative range for employers is $600 for standard accreditation to $2000 for premium and labour hire company accreditation.

Submissions close:

5pm Monday 18 March 2019

You can provide feedback via the options below:

We encourage all members to make a submission and give their views to the government on this.

Hospitality NZ is also interested in your views on this – we would welcome your feedback to help shape our submission too – please email our Advocacy and Policy Manager, Nadine Mehlhopt by midday Monday 4 February 2019. nadine@hospitality.org.nz

Consultation documents are available to read at the following link:

Employer-Assisted Work Visa and Regional Workforce Planning


The Minister has said:

Temporary work visas are one of the most important parts of the immigration system. As a small, advanced nation we will always need the skills and talents of overseas workers. Alongside this, we need to unlock the potential of New Zealand workers by making sure they have the skills and attributes to take up job opportunities in our communities. This means recognising that regional needs are different from Kaitaia to Auckland to Queenstown, and that we can do better than a one-size fits all model for migration settings. I am committed to taking a more regional and industry-based approach to migration, one that reflects the diversity of our regions and the industries they support.

My proposals are designed to encourage businesses to increase their use of locals over time by breaking down barriers to putting Kiwis into good work. This means creating better connections between the immigration, education, skills, welfare and employment systems to improve how we work together to deliver better labour market outcomes for New Zealanders. I am committed to working closely with the Ministers of Education, Social Development and Employment and taking a regional approach to make this happen.

My proposals are also intended to streamline the spaghetti junction of different options for work visas into a clear, logical, simple and robust pathway to make the immigration system easier to navigate. These proposals reward good employers while safeguarding migrant workers from exploitation and illegal behaviour.

The proposals in this discussion paper will have implications for many stakeholders including employers, migrant workers, industry and the regions. I encourage you to read the proposals outlined in this discussion document and submit your views.

Overview from the consultation documents:

The proposals in this discussion paper are focussed on achieving two strategic outcomes:

1. Employers place more New Zealanders into jobs, which helps their businesses to grow and thrive, and results in better jobs for New Zealanders.

2. Temporary migrant workers, when they are employed, are not exploited and have wages and conditions that are consistent with New Zealand values.

These outcomes will be met by the introduction of an immigration gateway framework which will deliver to four policy objectives:

1. Strengthen employer standards and improve employer incentives and compliance
2. Tailor labour market tests to types of skill shortages, sectors and regions
3. Trigger integrated responses to demand for temporary migrant workers from the skills/education and welfare/employment systems to improve domestic labour supply
4. Simplify immigration processes making it easier for employers and migrants to use the system

Policy work undertaken by MBIE has revealed a number of issues with how the immigration system is functioning:

  • Displacement of New Zealanders
  • Growth in lower-skilled temporary migrant workers
  • Unresponsive labour market test
  • Lack of incentives
  • Inadequate signals
  • Limited compliance
  • Operational complexities

There is opportunity to reform the employer-assisted temporary work visa system by introducing a new gateway framework and integrating it with the broader domestic labour market system. The proposals in this discussion paper respond to this opportunity.


The Gateway Framework:

It is proposed that the six employer-assisted temporary work visa categories are unified under one category called the ‘employer-assisted temporary work visa.’ All applications for this visa would be processed through a new gateway framework comprised of three distinct gates where checks on employers and migrants are completed by INZ:

1. The employer gate where employers are accredited to employ temporary migrant workers;
2. The job gate where checks are made to make sure no New Zealander is able to fill the job the employer is recruiting for; and
3. The migrant gate

Employer Gate: Compulsory Employer Accreditation Proposal:

Proposed changes

It is proposed that compulsory employer accreditation is introduced for all employers who want to recruit temporary migrant workers and the minimum standards, incentives and compliance are strengthened to encourage employers to recruit New Zealanders. This will also reduce the risk of exploitation when migrants are employed.

Accreditation would require employers to demonstrate that their business practices:

  • Incentivise training and upskilling of New Zealanders
  • Put upward pressure on wages and conditions
  • Meet minimum immigration and employment regulatory standards to minimise the exploitation of migrant workers
  • Maintain the integrity of the immigration system

More detail can be found in Appendix 1 of the consultation document.


Job Gate:

Proposed changes

There is a case for a more expansive and targeted set of job pathways than is currently available. It is proposed that there are four job pathways available to employers to recruit temporary migrant workers in the future. Three of these pathways (the highly-paid threshold, regional skills list and regional labour market test) are enhancements of the status quo. One of these pathways (sector agreements) is a new pathway.

  • Highly-paid threshold
  • Regional skills shortage list
  • Sector Agreements
  • Regional labour market test


Regionalised skill shortage lists

The skills shortage lists will be recast by region when they are published next in April 2019 and renamed as Regional Skills Shortages (RSS) lists. This will better reflect the skill shortages that exist in the regions and provide a stronger signal to temporary migrants of opportunities in regional areas.
Further changes are being considered including the criteria for assessing what occupations are placed on the lists and how these lists will signal a domestic labour market supply response from employers and the education/skills and welfare systems. There are no specific proposals on this matter at the moment but we welcome your general comments.

Sector Agreements

The purpose of the sector agreements is to provide certainty for employers in industries that rely heavily on migrant workers. In return for that certainty, employers will need to make commitments including the commitment to employ more New Zealanders over time and reduce their reliance on migration. Sector agreements will help businesses to grow and thrive and deliver better jobs for working people. They will also help ensure that migrant workers are not exploited and have wages and conditions that are consistent with New Zealand values.


Migrant Gate:

Proposed changes

It is proposed that migrant checks remain largely as they are to ensure we continue to manage the risks associated with temporary migrant workers. There is potential scope to allow employers, rather than INZ, to undertake capability checks to ensure that the migrant genuinely has the skills required to do the job. This is because there is an incentive for the employer to only hire workers that have the skills, experience and knowledge required to do the job. However, there are also risks with this approach as it could increase the risks of migrant exploitation or provide a ‘backdoor’ to immigration. We are interested in hearing your views on this matter.