Short term Changes to NZ Temporary Work Visa

Covid-19 has had a significant impact on businesses and temporary work visa holders in New Zealand, and to combat this, the New Zealand Government has made short term changes to the temporary work visas. These changes have come into effect from July 7th onwards, and will provide migrants with more certainty about their work situation in the short term. They are also designed to allow employers to retain work visa holders they already employ, without having to take away opportunities from New Zealanders.

These changes include:

  1. 6 month extensions for employer-assisted temporary work visas

Employer-assisted temporary work visas can now be extended for 6 months. For instance, if you were in New Zealand on 10 July 2020, and you hold an employer-assisted temporary work visa that is due to expire before 31 December 2020, you are allowed to get it extended for 6 months. Some types of visas that are included under this category are:

  • some visas that were due to expire after 9 July
  • visas that were previously extended to 25 September under the Epidemic Management Notice.

Employer-assisted temporary work visas include:

  • Work to Residence
  • Essential Skills
  • Special category work visas for Japanese Interpreters and Thai Chefs
  • Special and Skilled work visas for China, Indonesia, South Korea, Philippines and Vietnam
  • Work visas granted under section 61 of the Immigration Act 2009 that specify an employer

The other conditions on your original visa will still stay the same, including your job title and location.

By Tuesday 14 July, you (or your advisor if they are listed as your contact) should have received an email from Immigration New Zealand confirming your visa extension.

There are two exceptions to this:

Note that visas for partners and dependent children will not be extended.

So, if you have supported your partner or dependent child, and they have a visa based on their relationship with you, their visa expiry date will not be extended under this change, and they will need to apply for a new visa.

If there are changes to your employment, then the extension is not applicable.

In the event that you are looking for a new role or your employment conditions have changed, you will need to apply for a variation of conditions or a new visa based on your circumstances. If you are required to apply for a new Essential Skills visa, your employer must demonstrate that they have made genuine attempts to recruit and train New Zealanders before they can employ you.

Also, those employers looking to fill lower-paid roles will still need to obtain a skilled match report (SMR) from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) before choosing to employ a migrant worker as opposed to a New Zealander.

  • Delay to the 12 month stand-down period for lower-paid workers

The second short term change is that the introduction of the12 month stand-down period for lower-paid workers who have had their employer-assisted work visa extended will be delayed.

In case you are employed in a lower-paid role where you are required to stand down between August 2020 and 31 December 2020, you will still be able to stay in New Zealand and work for the same employer in the same occupation and location for up to 6 more months, in line with your visa extension.

Also, the stand-down period will still apply if you apply for another lower-paid Essential Skills work visa even if it is for another employer. It will also apply if you work in a different location in a lower-paid role.

In case you are required to stand down from February 2021, you will have to leave New Zealand for a period of 12 months before you can apply for another lower-paid work visa.

  • Some Essential Skills work visas will be reduced to 6 months

The third change is that the duration of new lower- Essential Skills work visas will be reduced from 12 to 6 months.

All new lower-paid Essential Skills work visa applications lodged from 10 July 2020 would be affected by this change.

Any applications that were received before 10 July would still be granted a 12 months visa on approval.

Other changes that could affect you

Starting 27 July, there was introduced a simple remuneration threshold to determine whether a job is lower-paid or higher paid. If you apply for a work visa for a job that pays below the median wage, your employer will have to mandatorily include a Skills Match Report (SMR) from MSD. The duration of your visa will subsequently depend upon whether you will be paid above or below the national median wage.

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