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The ‘Essential’ option for Accredited Employers

07 April 2021

Currently, there are 1742 accredited employers listed on INZ’s website spanning different industries and sectors across New Zealand. The go-to visa category for migrant employees of these companies used to be the Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa. This category has seen a 77% decline in submissions for the period of March 2020 to February 2021, compared to the period before (March’ 19 – Feb’ 20).

Besides the turbulence caused by the pandemic, there is one major reason for this steep decline – in October 2019, the salary threshold for eligibility under this category increased from $55,000 to $79,560 per year. This increase led to an influx of applications prior to the change but a sharp drop off thereafter.

An increase in salary threshold meant supporting Talent (Accredited Employer) Work visas became impossible for many employers as their foreign workers were paid below the $79,560 mark. Consequently, such employers turned towards another category – Essential Skills Work Visa, which meant they were no longer exempt from advertising or experience and qualification requirements. This work visa also required employers to fill out an Employer Supplementary Form (unlike for the Talent visa). Basically, from October 2019, many accredited employers could no longer enjoy the benefits of accreditation that were available to them previously.

It is pertinent to note here that a few months following the salary threshold change; the NZ border closed in March 2020; effectively reducing the Essential Skills Work visa numbers as well, since offshore submissions could no longer be made.

As a result, a lot of HR teams and staff supporting visa processes did not and do not possess the level of familiarity or expertise with Essential Skills work visas like they did with Talent visas. That is only fair, given that the need for it is relatively new. Essential Skills as a category does not make it easy – it has multiple intricate layers such as substantial match to ANZSCO and an applicant’s suitability in terms of experience/qualification, labour market testing, ‘skilled’ employment and median wage. Something as simple as putting down an incorrect ANZSCO code could lead to a range of issues in the visa process.

While we understand the desire to keep services in house and reduce costs, HR personnel taking on the task of providing immigration advice pose a significant risk because 1) they are legally not allowed to and 2) they could really end up giving incorrect information which could cost the staff member their residence pathway. As best practice, those managers that usually dabbled in Talent visas historically but suddenly see themselves stretched into the Essential Skills work visa space, should consult a licensed immigration advisor or a lawyer – the only 2 professions in New Zealand allowed to provide immigration advice.

With all the uncertainty and changes, including accreditation and the new work visa, gaining and imparting the right immigration advice has never been more crucial. If you are struggling with essential skills work visas or need support to get applications approved, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Our team is here to support employers through all stages of the immigration process, including complimentary consultation sessions with your people!

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