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Hiring a Foreign Worker in New Zealand


Aaron Martin


October 06, 2021


08:35 AM

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In October 2019 Immigration Authorities in New Zealand announced planned changes to how employers will be able to employ migrant workers. These new, temporary work visa proposals will go into effect in 2021. The first step will be for all employers to get accredited. This means Immigration New Zealand will need to approve your business to employ migrant workers.

How do I become an Accredited Employer for hiring Migrant Workers in New Zealand?

From 2021 an employer must be accredited to hire any migrant worker on the new temporary work visa. Accreditation to employ migrant workers is different from being a Talent Accredited Employer under the current rules. Once an employer is accredited, they will be able to consider hiring migrant workers for job vacancies that meet Immigration NZ’s job check criteria. Workers suitable for these vacancies can apply for a temporary work visa.

I’m a business owner who needs accreditation to hire migrant workers in New Zealand. What do I need to do?

Some details, including the types of accreditation, have already been agreed while other details of the changes are still being considered. There will be three levels of accreditation:

  • Standard accreditation — for employers who hire between 1 and 5 migrant workers in a year
  • High-volume accreditation — for employers who hire 6 or more migrant workers in a year, and
  • Labour hire employer accreditation.

Most employers will need standard accreditation.

Standard Accreditation for hiring Foreign Workers in New Zealand

To qualify for standard accreditation you must:

  • Not be on a non-compliant stand-down list — a list of employers who have broken employment law
  • Comply with any relevant industry or regulatory standards
  • Have no history of non-compliance in your dealings with Immigration New Zealand, and
  • Be in a financially sustainable position.

For Larger Employers in New Zealand: High-Volume and Labour Hire Accreditation.

As well as meeting the requirements for standard accreditation, high-volume employers will need to make commitments to:

  • Training and upskilling New Zealanders, and
  • Increasing wages and conditions for workers.
  • Labour hire companies will also be assessed for these commitments when they apply.

How Long Does Accreditation Last?

Standard and high-volume accreditation will last for 12 months initially and then 24 months upon renewal. Employers with labour hire employer accreditation will need to renew this every 12 months.

Necessary Documentation for Employers to Hire Foreign Workers in New Zealand

From 2021, all employers wishing to employ migrant workers on the new temporary work visa will use a 3-step process.

  1. Employer Review — it will be mandatory for all employers, including those with an existing accreditation, to be accredited under the new application process before they can hire migrants on the new work visa.
  2. Job Review — this will include checking that the job is paid in line with the New Zealand market rate and, in some cases, will include a labour market test to ensure New Zealand workers are not available.
  3. Worker Review — when the worker applies for a visa, they must show they meet our standard character, identity and health requirements, as well showing they have the skills to do the job they have been offered.

Can I still get an essential skills visa in New Zealand?

Immigration New Zealand is replacing the essential skills visa from 2021. The new temporary work visa will replace six old temporary work visas. The visas that are being replaced are:

  • Essential Skills Work Visa
  • Essential Skills Work Visa — approved in principle
  • Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa
  • Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa
  • Silver Fern Job Search Visa, and
  • Silver Fern Practical Experience Visa.

You can read more about the Skilled Worker visa here.


2021/2022. New Zealand is progressively introducing substantial changes for obtaining work visas

Important Changes in New Zealand's Immigration Framework for Employers and Workers.

In preparation of the new system being introduced, Immigration New Zealand stopped using ANZSCO to determine the skill band of a job and visa duration. Skilled Band of a job (and visa duration) will based on what a foreign worker is being paid instead of skill bands. Using the median wage, currently $25.50 an hour, a worker can be:

  • Low-skilled, if they are paid below the New Zealand median wage which qualifies for a 6 month visa (this duration is mandated to stay in place until January 2022 at which point the duration will revert to the pre-COVID rule of 1-year duration for low skilled positions); or
  • High-skilled, if they are paid at or above the New Zealand median wage which qualifies for a 3 year work visa.

I am living and working in New Zealand now. What happens when the new system starts in 2021? For workers on a work visa that Immigration New Zealand are replacing, it will remain valid until it expires. To continue working for the same employer after that visa expires, you will need to apply for the new temporary work visa or another visa you may qualify for.

Those on a Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa or a Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa, can still apply for residence based on their current work visa.

The Silver Fern Practical Experience Visa will remain open for existing Silver Fern Job Search visa holders only.

Navigating the Hiring Process for a Foreign Worker in New Zealand.

Employers in New Zealand generally maintain a few misconceptions about the process of recruiting staff from overseas. One thing employers are concerned about is a fear of onerous sponsorship obligations. However, under the legislation, sponsorship is discretionary rather than mandatory. Under the old law an organisation could not sponsor. That was changed in the 2009 Act, however employers have often had a misunderstanding that they have to sponsor an application. They don’t.

You don’t need to sponsor your employee in order to hire them, and in fact it is very rare for a New Zealand employer to be asked to sponsor an employee’s work visa application. Sponsorship is only requested if an Immigration New Zealand considers there is a risk associated with the visa applicant that needs management by sponsorship.

Learn more about Hiring Foreign Workers for your Business in New Zealand

Aaron Martin is one of New Zealand’s most highly regarded practitioners in immigration law, with decades of experience in assisting private individuals, business, and corporate clients. Skilled in evaluating complex cases, ministerial intervention, appeals, and character or medical waivers.

Connect with Aaron today and dig-deeper into relevant topics for relocating to New Zealand.

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