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Employees Breaching NZ Work Visa Conditions - Is This a Problem for Employers?

06 August 2021

If an employee breaches their New Zealand visa conditions, it poses a potentially significant problem for the employer as well. Let's delve into this further to understand why...

What Constitutes a Visa Breach?

A visa breach occurs when an employee’s work situation differs from what is listed on their current work visa, such as working:

  • At a different location 
  • In a different role
  • With a different employer

Some visas such as partner or post study allow open working conditions, so no breaches take place under these. But employer-assisted NZ work visas are restricted to the employee’s job, location and company. Working in any situation that doesn't align with these three conditions constitutes a visa breach.

Many times interim visas (which are visas granted in between the expiry of one visa and the awaited decision on a submitted visa) can have visitor visa conditions. Oftentimes neither the migrants nor the employers realise this, and the employee continues working while on the interim visa: This will also constitute a visa breach. 

Visa breaches are taken quite seriously by Immigration NZ. Breaches not only affect the employee’s immigration prospects, but also the employer’s ability to retain and hire migrants in the future and their overall reputation with Immigration NZ.

How Does a Visa Breach Impact Employees?

Whether purposeful or accidental, employees guilty of not working in the specific role their work visa was granted for end up portraying themselves negatively to their employer as well as Immigration NZ. As a result, the employee may become liable for deportation. Additionally, this breach may preclude the employee from making any successful visa applications in the future.

How Does an Employee’s Visa Breach Impact the Employer?

As per Immigration NZ’s instructions, any employer who wishes to support a visa application must have a history of compliance with immigration and employment law. If they have employees who may have been working outside of their visa conditions, Immigration New Zealand may raise concerns that the employer hasn't followed due diligence to employ people in accordance with the visa conditions. 

Consequently, Immigration NZ will treat these employers as non-compliant employers if no remedial steps have been taken to rectify the breach. This could also create issues for the employer when supporting other visas.

Visa Breaches Are a Common Occurrence

Time and again, we see many employers failing on this front. It could be due to not understanding visa rules or not realising the interim visa conditions. In almost all cases, this failure is due to a lack of knowledge. It is critical that HR managers and employers do not falter on this front as INZ has recently tightened its approach to visa breaches. 

There are various ways to keep on top of this - have robust processes, possess thorough knowledge, or partner with an immigration expert to rely on their experience and guidance. Visa breaches can, and should, be easily avoided! 

- Zinnia Manchanda (Operations Manager & Senior Licensed Immigration Adviser #201600267)

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