Immigration for the healthcare sector29 September 2022
27 Sept 2022 - Opinion piece by Ritika Singh
In August, we spent 4 days at the NZACA & RVA conference at the beautiful Te Pae Convention Centre in Otautahi Christchurch. As a conference sponsor, it was very evident that the aged care sector is suffering immensely due to a critical staff shortage and lack of funding. Furthermore, it isn’t just the aged care sector, but the entire healthcare industry that is overwhelmed by the issue of talent shortage. Since New Zealand is unable to train sufficient healthcare staff to meet our domestic demands, we have no option but to turn to talent from overseas. Whether it’s a caregiver, a nurse, a doctor or in some cases even kitchen staff and cleaners, Kiwi healthcare facilities would welcome staff from other countries with open arms. So, what’s stopping us?
Immigration Pathways for Healthcare Sector
As Immigration specialists supporting the healthcare sector for many years, we feel the pain of facilities and practices acutely. So, here’s a few options in place that are available to the healthcare sector.
1. Employer Accreditation
After nearly 3 years of waiting, the mandatory Immigration New Zealand Employer Accreditation and Accredited Employer Work Visa came into effect on 4th July 2022. If you aren’t accredited as an employer by INZ, you cannot support staff on a work visa. While this system puts the control in the hands of employers, it also brings with it new budgets and upskilling requirements if the process is managed internally. Here’s 5 things to keep in mind if you haven’t applied for employer accreditation. The good news is that accreditation approvals have been coming through in a relatively short time and generally within INZ’s indicated timeframe of 10 working days.
2. Job checks can include multiple vacancies
At present, Job checks are a lot more complex than the accreditation application and every Job check has an INZ fee of $610 attached to it. The good news is that a Job Check is valid for 6 months at a time and one Job check can include multiple vacancies as long as all the role criterion remain the same. Job Check requirements and attached residence pathways (if any) depend upon whether the role is in the Green List of if the job is paid at/ above or below 200% of the median wage. You can find further details here.
3. Sector Agreements
On 21st August, the government released details of a sector agreement with healthcare which will take effect from 31st October 2022 and will remain in place until October 2024. The sector agreement allows for some healthcare roles to secure an Accredited Employer Work Visa for upto two years and to be paid at least $26.16 per hour. The list of included occupations is available on INZ’s website.
4. Residence pathways
Residence pathways provide migrant with a sense of certainty about their and their families’ future in NZ. At present, Registered Nurses are included in the Green list and can apply for residence after two years of working in the role. This residence pathway opens from September 2023. In addition, care workers paid at least $28.25 an hour, will also be able to apply for residence after two years in that role. Given the severe shortage of staff, further residence pathways for other healthcare workers are much awaited and all eyes are now on the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) pathway to be announced later this year. If a role you’re advertising is on the Green list, here’s a list of FAQ’s about this pathway.
5. Specific Purpose Work Visas
This work visa has specific criterion and allows an employer to bypass the accreditation framework. However, employees are only allowed to remain in New Zealand for a specific time and have no residence pathways available. Within the healthcare sector, we have seen many GPs take up this option for their doctors who may come in from overseas for 12 to 18 months at a time, with the intention of returning home at the end of their contract. If you would like to know more about this pathway, please contact our team with your questions.
The new immigration framework which includes Employer Accreditation, Job Checks and the Accredited Employer Work Visa will make things simpler for the sector in the long run. However, in the meantime, it is important that you are familiar with the process and have a reliable immigration partner to turn to when needed