A changing immigration environment – where to find value and use it to your best advantage

Navigating the immigration journey can be challenging and rewarding, but it may also be stressful, expensive and ultimately fruitless. Licensed Immigration Adviser Andy O’Dell knows only too well the issues employers may experience when trying to secure new staff and offers advice to help those in the sector navigate the pathway. 

Andy’s background in recruitment within the engineering sector, which included immigration, enables him to stand in an employer’s shoes. He understands the potential limitations and challenges that may be encountered allowing for a productive working relationship when providing advice. 

Recent changes to immigration processes

Andy O'DellAndy often receives queries from small to medium-sized businesses struggling to understand recent changes to immigration processes. He says a common problem for these companies, which frequently have no specific human resources department, is that they unknowingly apply the wrong criteria for a job candidate, which, in turn, can be costly and detrimental to any potential future relationship.

Uncertainty surrounding the recent change in government is also weighing on the sector and affecting its ability to plan long term.

However, Andy advises that a bright note on the horizon is a change at the end of November to the duration of the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV). Many accredited work visas within the professional engineering environment that are granted after Monday 27 November 2023 will be extended from three to five years. Accordingly, this will reduce the frequency of monitoring and checking required by employers regarding the validity of an employee’s visa.

The extension will also allow people already working in New Zealand to gain New Zealand-based work experience without applying for multiple visas. This will cut costs for visa holders and employers as it removes the need to reissue a visa or provide further support to employees on this type of visa.

This amendment is connected to recently introduced changes to the new skilled migrant category, which provides a pathway to residency and contains points for work experience. Whereas points earned used to cover multiple areas and a threshold had to be reached (160 points) before you could apply for residency, now only six points are required. Points can be awarded for either a qualification or the salary of the role to be performed, together with a job offer from an accredited employer.

The working holiday visa pathway has also changed this year. New Zealand and the United Kingdom have made two amendments to the reciprocal working holiday visa agreement. The first change to this visa, which can be granted within a few weeks of an application being made to Immigration New Zealand (INZ), is an increase to the age ceiling from 30 to 35 years old. The second change is that, although visa holders are still unable to accept permanent work, they can now work for the full three-year period in the same role, rather than just 12 months.

Andy says the amendments will heighten graduates’ value to employers. The age extension for these young professionals means they will have more industry experience when applying for a working holiday visa and be able to work for an employer for up to three years. An additional bonus is that they may be able to apply for residency once they are in New Zealand because they are skilled professionals.

This will significantly expand the number of potential employees in the market. Andy explains that 30 to 35-year-olds may be interested in senior roles that traditionally have been difficult to fill in New Zealand. Given that people in this age bracket increasingly are single or don’t have a family, and are not homeowners, they are more likely to move to New Zealand for work. Andy considers this market to be currently underutilised.

Cost increases to visas

The National Party indicated pre-election that it would significantly increase visa costs, which will affect companies that pay or bond visa costs on behalf of employees. For these firms, Andy notes the cost of visa applications may double. Although unlikely to gain any traction until mid-2024, he considers it important for companies that invest significantly in the migrant population to be aware of the potential increase to the upfront cost of bringing migrants to New Zealand.

Andy says the National Party looks to Australia for guidance in this area. Across the Tasman, employers pay vastly more in immigration costs than Kiwis because the immigration process must cover all associated costs. Subsidisation is not available to participants – employers or migrants.

Need more detailed help with an AEWV application?

Andy has provided more detailed information on the main challenges encountered when compiling an AEWV application and how to overcome them. He notes problems are often struck when employers invite migrants to apply for a job following approval of a job check by INZ.