Partner Work Rights Changes – What this Means for Employers and Recruiters09 June 2023
31st May 2023 ushered in some sweeping changes to the work rights of partners of Accredited Employer Work Visas (AEWV) and Essential Skills Work Visa (ESWV) holders.
This change means that partners of migrant workers applying for their AEWV based on - roles that pay at or above the median wage ($29.66/hr currently) but below twice the median wage AND if that role is NOT included in the Green List - will no longer get open work visas.
Partners of the above category of migrant workers will now get Work Visa with conditions that require -
- them to only be able to work for NZ Accredited Employers, AND
- be only able to work in a role that pay at or above the median wage
These work visa holders will also no longer be able to undertake self-employment while on this visa, unlike they could under open work visa rights (prior to 31 May 2023).
This means that any employers/recruiters that were previously hiring from this pool of candidates, as these migrant workers could previously work with any business in NZ, at any pay and in any role, will no longer be able to do so without checking the 'conditions’ of their work visa first.
1) Does this apply to partners of all work visa holders?
No. There are exceptions, these are as below. These groups will continue to receive automatic open work rights:
- Partners of Post Study Work Visa holders.
- Partners of Student Visas have their own eligibility rules, and this change does not apply to them.
- Partners of migrants working in occupations on the Green List (Tier 1 & Tier 2) or paid twice the median wage (the current median wage is $29.66/hr).
- Partners of New Zealand citizens or residents.
These exceptions also include supporting partners who did not meet the requirements when they received their visa but have since met them through a pay hike or their role being added to the Green List. Evidence of eligibility will need to be submitted as part of the Partner of a Worker Work Visa application or through a Variation of Conditions request. Note that the supporting partner needs to meet the requirements that are set out for the Green List role and not just work in a role that is on the list.
2) Does this mean that we can recruit from the above categories of visa holders for non- accredited businesses and in roles that pay below median wage?
Yes. The above categories in point 1 can work in any role, with any employer and at any pay.
3) When exactly does this new policy start?
This policy comes into effect from 31 May 2023.
4) Do partners need to have a job offer to apply for this visa?
No, it is not a requirement. But they need to ensure that any future job offers they receive meet all the necessary conditions. Also, their employers will not have to complete a Job Check as part of the hiring process.
5) What about partners who already have a job offer?
If partners have a job offer at the time their new visa is approved, they must ensure that their employment meets the new visa conditions.
6) Are partners required to work a minimum number of hours?
No, there is no such requirement.
7) What if partners want to change jobs?
Partners can change accredited employers without having to apply for a Variation of Conditions. Partners remaining in the same employment will not be impacted by future changes to employer accreditation, median wage, or Sector Agreements.
8) What about AEWV holders who are covered by any Sector Agreement and paid below the median wage?
If AEWV holders are covered by any sector agreement and paid below the median wage, their partners will NOT be eligible for a partnership-based work visa.
However, if they receive a pay hike it means they earn at least the median wage and may be able to support their partners for a work visa. Evidence of eligibility will need to be provided as part of the Partner of a Worker Work Visa application.
9) What about partners ability to access publicly funded health services?
To access publicly funded health services, a migrant must hold a work visa of 2 years duration or more (or must have been lawfully in NZ for 2 years or more but must still be holding a work visa). Partners who will no longer be eligible for a work visa will also not be eligible for publicly funded healthcare. Full eligibility criteria is listed here.
10) What if someone already holds a Partner Work Visa or has already submitted a Partner Work Visa application before 31 May 2023?
If a migrant already holds a Partner Work Visa, these conditions the visa will remain valid, and their work rights will not be revoked. If they have submitted a Partner Work Visa application before the policy changes, that's also okay, as long as their Partner Work visa is eventually approved. Once an application is submitted, the policy active at the time of submission applies to it, so any applications approved or submitted prior to 31 May 2023 will be insulated from the above change.
11) Does a couple need to live together for 12 months to be considered a 'partner' for work visa purposes?
A couple doesn't need to be living together for 12 months, but they need to meet the "living together" criteria (as one of the key criteria, and there are other partnership requirements that you need to meet as well) to be considered a partner in the "immigration sense." This is a holistic assessment of all the evidence you can provide for this purpose. For example, you can even get a work visa approved for six months of living together.
Moving countries can be challenging at the best of times and the upcoming changes to partner work rights add another layer of complexity. If an employee or a candidate you are looking to hire may be impacted by the changing partner work rights, or you would like to know how your business can navigate this change, please contact our team!