Accreditation for NZ Businesses – Is this the future?

The immigration landscape has been very dynamic in the past months. There is a raft of policy announcements and consultation proposals that has kept the stakeholders in this industry very busy.

The first big change was a breath of fresh air – releasing the post study work visa holders from the restrictions of having their employers name on their 2-year visas.

The second big one is still unfolding as it is undergoing consultation until 18th March 2019. Many people are less than enthused. In this piece, we explain the proposed policy, contrasted with current scenarios, and simply present some pros and cons.

If you are an employer, a recruitment agency, or an HR representative of any sort, we strongly recommend you stay with us and read this to the end. This will impact your ability to employ migrant talent.

Accreditation – The Proposal

On 18 Dec 2018, the government released a consultation paper on temporary work visas supported by an employer. These they call “employer-assisted” work visas. The 6 categories that are likely to be impacted (and amalgamated into one new category), are:

  • Essential Skills
  • Approval In-principle
  • Talent (Accredited Employer)
  • Work to Residence – Long-term Skill Shortage List Occupation
  • Silver Fern (Practical Experience)
  • Silver Fern (Job Search).

The employer-assisted temporary work visa system will be changed so that the process starts with the employer instead of the migrant applicant”.

What does this mean?

Firstly, employers cannot hire migrants unless they have some form of Accreditation (explained below). The initial checks will be aimed at the employer – this is called Gate 1; the employer check.

Secondly, employers will have to prove that no suitable New Zealand residents or citizens could fill the role before offering it to a visa holder (exceptions apply) – Gate 2; the job check. 

Thirdly, the check on the applicants themselves – Gate 3; the migrant check. 

Currently, the migrant is the principal applicant for most employer-assisted visas. This means they must collect and provide information about themselves and the employer. This can create issues for employers, and also limits INZ’s monitoring and compliance of employers.

So what options do employers have?

They have 3 types of Accreditation models:

Standard Labour Hire Premium

(optional for low-volume employers)

Approval lasts 12 months Approval lasts 12 months Initial approval 12 months, then 2 years thereafter
Requires annual renewal Requires annual renewal Requires biennial renewal (after 1st year)
For those recruiting <5 migrant workers over 12 months Compulsory for labour hire companies Compulsory for those recruiting >6 migrant workers over 12 months
Assessment based on base standards Assessment based on enhanced standards Assessment based on enhanced standards
Job checks required Job checks required No job checks for those earning $37.50/hour or more

For those that are currently accredited, their status is most likely to be similar to “Premium” Accreditation. Without one of these Accreditations in place, an employer cannot hire migrant workers.

Once you have your Accreditation sorted, what’s next?

The Job Check

This includes assessment of the type of job, the skills required for it, as well as advertising, etc. The genuine efforts an employer makes to attract and recruit suitable New Zealanders for a role through various advertising attempts is called a “Labour Market Test” (LMT). The following has been proposed:

  • For jobs paying $37.50/hour or more; do not require LMT if with Premium accredited employers
  • For jobs paying $50/hour or more; do not require LMT if with non-Premium accredited – so all other employers
  • ANZSCO 1-3 jobs listed in regional skill shortages list; do not require LMT. Rest of the jobs require LMT (this includes existing and new pathways such as Sector Agreements) 

The Migrant Check

An examining of the applicant’s identity, health, character, skills. The assessment around these criteria will remain largely unchanged. This means migrant workers will only be able to apply for a visa once the employer is accredited and the job has been cleared through one of the four job pathways. 

What does all this mean for New Zealand businesses that thrive on migrant labour?

The Future

Now it is more vital than ever for employers to get HR practices compliant to labour laws, show proof of financial stability to offer and sustain employment, and ensure work place policies are in good order. This is not a far-into-the-future plan, this is being worked on now and as a result, we encourage businesses to react to this change with immediate effect.

There is a lot to take in here. Namely, the concern about the complexity of Accreditation and how long it would take to obtain. The costs. Disruption. Impact on the workforce. The list may continue to grow, but hopefully, so do the answers that we receive over the coming weeks.

This new employer-led proposal will make the overall process faster for employers who meet the required standards and will support better compliance and assurance processes.

This may appear as a daunting process, but there are some key advantages to be predicted. The current environment gives immigration officers assessing the work visas the right to request employers’ financial documents at discretion. This has been shown to create uncertainty for the applicant as many visas can get declined on employer’s financial sustainability or compliance concerns.

Accreditation will negate the doubt as employers will have already proven their credibility to hire migrants; they have passed their “warrant of fitness”. Ultimately, there is little likelihood of migrant exploitation, better work environments, and the visa processes eventually becoming streamlined.

However, this may potentially come at the cost of Immigration New Zealand’s efficiency of processing such a large amount of Accreditation applications at the same time. We hypothesise from experience that employers may notice increased wait times to recruit migrant staff as they go through the process of their own Accreditation application, and then the wait for the outcome of the work visa as well. Here, we take a leap of faith that Immigration New Zealand will allocate their resources accordingly to avoid backlogs.

Existing accredited employers who move to Premium Accreditation are most likely to feel the burn as the wage threshold to bypass LMT increases from $55,000 to $78,000 – a 42% increase. With already stringent policy requirements in place for Skilled Migrant Category, these announcements can create a void where skilled workers are not able to transition to residence due to the restrictive nature of the proposed policy.

How these opposing forces will pull at each other, only time will tell. But as it stands, we can make educated assessments and prepare accordingly. The consultation for this process is open until March 2019 with a final decision expected middle of this year. The implementation of this entire framework is proposed by mid-2020. We encourage New Zealand businesses to come forward, engage with us, and voice their opinion. It is important that the government listens to the stakeholders most greatly impacted by this proposal. Have your say by completing this online survey.

This proposal asks businesses to take action now, so they don’t get overwhelmed by the complexities of the system later. 

“Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action” – Benjamin Disraeli


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