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Last chance to apply for the Essential Skills Work Visa

02 May 2022

May 2022 marks another step loosening of New Zealand's borders, with visa-waiver travellers welcome. While these are only short-term visitors, there is an option to extend your stay for up to three years by applying for a work visa.   

No new Essential Skills Work Visa applications can be made after 03 July 2022,  and a new Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) will come into play from July 4 (to replace Essential Skills Work Visa). AEWV is entirely different from Essential Skills - hence the timing of your application becomes critical. 

From 04 July onwards: AEWV will be the only type of work visa available, and it will be the only way for an employer to support a migrant. 

To gain this visa your employer must be accredited by Immigration New Zealand first. They must apply for it and they must bear the cost for it. Much like an Essential Skills Work Visa, you’ll be attached to this employer for the term of your visa, but unlike Essential Skills, you must be paid at least $27.76 per hour. If you wish to leave the workplace to continue working in New Zealand, you must find another accredited employer who can support you. 

This means your choice of businesses you can work for narrows down- you can only work for those who have chosen (and been approved) to be accredited. 

Employer Accreditation is not a pre-requisite for any Essential Skills Work Visa (ESWV) - you can simply work for any compliant business in NZ, accredited or not, and gain a two-year or a three- year work visa if you meet all the requirements of ESWV. You can be paid below, at or above median wage, unlike AEWV where you must be at or above median wage only.  

Before 03 July: There are three main reasons why you should apply for ESWV before it closes

Now that you understand your options from 04 July, let's look at why Essential Skills Work Visa could prove to be a much easier pathway for you. Travellers arriving in NZ in May or June 2022 still have a window of opportunity available to submit as ESWV.  They will also have the ability to choose between AEWV should they wish to wait till 04 July, or submit an ESWV prior to 04 July.  However, those arriving in NZ after 04 July will not have the choice to submit an ESWV. 

This is why everyone should think about their options carefully. 

1. Not all businesses might want to get accredited  

If you have found a really good job opportunity with an employer who is not accredited, then after 04 July 2022, you will have to wait for them to get accredited first, this can take up 10 working days or more. Then you must wait for a 'Job Check' to be completed which can take another 10 working days. Only once that is done, will you be invited to apply for an AEWV (you can't just apply it without these two stages being done first). You can end up waiting a while before it's your turn to submit a work visa as the employer goes through its own immigration processes. It can be a substantial cost to a business to complete the accreditation processes and they could get disincentivised from hiring you. 

But no such rules exist for ESWV. Prior to 04 July, you can just apply for an ESWV - you run the process and don't need to wait on your employer. 

Not all employers might want to get an accreditation, which they will have to renew after a year, so your chances of finding the perfect workplace will be smaller on AEWV than on Essential Skills Visa due to the limited range of employers that are "approved" by INZ to hire a migrant worker.  

2. Don’t have to be paid at or above $27.76/hour on ESWV

If you are paid below $27.76 per hour you must apply for a work visa before July 4. You don't really have a choice here. Median wage currently is $27/hour but increases to $27.76 on 04 July. When applying for the ESWV, if you’re getting paid at or above the median wage of $27 per hour, you’ll be granted a three-year visa. If your pay is below that, then the duration of the visa will be up to two years, but you will still get a visa; unlike an AEWV, which requires that you must not be paid below median wage. 

3. No advertising required in many cases for ESWV

Under the ESWV the employer has to prove they tried to recruit any suitable Kiwis before offering you the job, which is called a Labour Market Test. This requirement was removed for those going onto ESWV in the same role they currently doing.  In the new Employer Accreditation process, the Labour Market Test will only be removed for very high income earns (200% of median wage) or migrants working in Green List occupations, and will be strengthened for everyone else. Whereas right now many people can qualify for Essential Skills without advertising. So, take advantage of this soon-to-close policy. 

Coming to New Zealand on a visa waiver or any other valid visa in the next two months and wishing to get a work visa?

The policy is changing on 04 July 2022 and before that, you still have the option to submit an Essential Skills Work Visa. You can also choose to wait until after the AEWV policy goes live - the decision depends on your circumstances. 

Want to know which one is best for you? Fill up the form below and we can help.  

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