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NZ Borders are opening – Preparation for recruiting foreign workers

Photo credit: Chris Sisarich


In early May, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced an earlier than expected full opening of New Zealand’s borders, along with a simplification of immigration processes that will help address the shortfall in skilled workers across various industries. These changes will speed up our economic recovery following the pandemic.

Instead of the planned October opening, New Zealand will open its borders to work visas on 4 July and to all other visas on 31 July.

The news is welcome across the business community, with most industry sectors suffering staff shortages and unemployment currently sitting at a very low 3.2 per cent. Employers are eager to find skilled overseas workers, whether in tourism, hospitality, farming, engineering, construction, healthcare or other industries.

New Zealand has a heavy reliance on foreign workers, and when the pandemic hit, many left us to return to their home countries. Even though we undertook to support those who chose to stay here, vacancies were created by those who left. With the low unemployment rate, every New Zealander who can work or wants to work is employed, leaving a massive shortfall in job applicants.

From 4 July, New Zealand is introducing a new temporary work visa called AEWV, an Accredited Work Visa. It will replace six visas including the Essential Skills and Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visas. It is designed to streamline and hasten the recruitment of new overseas workers, but there are a few additional steps employers need to undertake to make the process smoother.

Employers who want to hire overseas workers will now need to be accredited and must show that no New Zealanders are available for the job they want to fill before hiring from overseas. Most jobs will need to pay at least the median wage of $27.76 per hour.

Employers need to meet criteria that demonstrate they will be good employers for migrants and requirements will vary depending on the industry and business model. Immigration NZ outlines all the details on their website.

The cost for accreditation is upwards of NZD $740 for employing five or fewer migrants and increases with more employees or franchisees.

In simple terms, employers need to demonstrate they are solvent and have operated in profit for the last two years, with a positive cash flow for every month in the previous six months. They also need to demonstrate they have enough capital or external investment for the business to remain viable or have a solid two-year plan to maintain viability.

Prospective employers cannot be on the Labour Inspectorate stand-down list or have been banned from hiring migrants.

Employers must demonstrate they have advertised the role/s on a New Zealand national job site such as Seek or Trade Me continuously for two weeks, offering competitive salaries and working conditions. They can concurrently advertise overseas to save time as well.

If the role is on the Green List or pays twice the median wage, you do not need to fulfil the advertising requirements. For all other positions, once Employers satisfy the accreditation requirements, they can begin the overseas recruitment process. Employers must cover all recruitment costs (except employee airfares).

The new process means employers can have foreign workers in their businesses in around two months, provided they can navigate the process. We recommend engaging an immigration agent at the outset who can work with employers to enable them to have overseas employees in their businesses as close as possible to the date the borders re-open.

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