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Immigration Rebalance & Its Impact on Migrant Workers

Immigration Rebalance & Its Impact on Migrant Workers

After being almost completely shut to the outside world since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic over two years ago, New Zealand borders will completely be open now for everyone from midnight of 31 July 2022 (technically 1 August 2022). Going forward the NZ Government plans to support a higher-productivity, higher-wage economy through “Immigration Rebalnce” announced.

What is Immigration Rebalance

Immigration Rebalance is a plan for New Zealand’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. It aims to boost working conditions, improve career pathways and encourage businesses to focus on increasing productivity & resilience. The aim is to attract high-skilled migrants instead of relying on low-skilled ones.


The changes aim to:

  • Encourage employers to offer competitive wages, hire less experienced New Zealanders & train them and work together to showcase employment opportunities
  • Encourage businesses in New Zealand to invest more
  • Reduce the pressure on infrastructure, housing & support economic growth. Shifting dependence from low skilled labour to high skilled labour can boost the growth of a more productive economy.

Changes for Workers & their Dependants

Multiple changes have been introduced as part of the Immigration Rebalance plan.

The changes include:

  • Introduction of the ‘Green List’ (explained below)
  • A median wage threshold for Accredited Employer Work Visas (AEWV) and Foreign Fishing Crew Visas.
  • Employment as a chef will henceforth require qualification for migrants on an Accredited Employer Work Visa.
  • Exemption for many tourism & hospitality roles. A lower wage threshold of NZ $25 per hour has been allowed for them until April 2023.

Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV)

  • 3 July 2022 – Essential Skills Work Visa closes to applications
  • 4 July 2022 – Accredited Employer Work Visa will open for applications
  • December 2022 – Partners of temporary migrant workers can apply for a Visitor visa or an AEWV if they want to work in New Zealand

The AEWV will be available mainly to workers earning over the median wage of NZ $27.76 per hour from 4 July onwards.

By 2023, the NZ Government wants all employers to be accredited to hire migrant workers, even those with openwork rights (Eg. working holidaymakers and students)

Immigration New Zealand aims to complete AEWV processing within 30 days: 10 working days for the accreditation check, 10 working days for the job check and 20 working days for the migrant check.

Sector Arrangements

The NZ Government has introduced a Green List. This list will make it easier for employers to hire and attract migrants for high-skilled, hard-to-fill positions in the construction, engineering, trades, health and ICT sectors.

If an employer wants to hire migrant workers on the AEWV and the role is on this list, then advertising for the job check is not required.

  • Exemptions to the median wage threshold: Certain transition arrangements will allow specific roles in the construction, care, tourism & hospitality sectors to be recruited at rates slightly lower than the median wage.
  • New sector arrangements: Sector-specific agreements support a shift away from low-skilled migrant labour. This includes care, construction and infrastructure, meat processing, seafood, and seasonal snow and adventure tourism sectors.
  • For Green List Occupations, please click here.
  • For roles exempt from AEWV median wage threshold, please click here

Partnership-based Work Visas

In a significant change, most partners of temporary work visa holders will be granted Visitor Visas from December 2022. If the partners wish to work in New Zealand, they will have to qualify for an Accredited Employer Work Visa in their own right.

Unlike other work visas, which require the holders to work for a minimum of 30 hours a week, the partners can work for less than 30 hours a week. The reason being they will have other responsibilities, such as childcare and will not be the primary household earner.

Partners of migrant workers working in occupations on the Green List or paid twice the median wage will continue to receive automatic open work rights.

This is to ensure that New Zealand attracts high-skilled migrant workers. There are no changes to automatic open work rights for partners of New Zealanders.

Easy Residence Pathways

Immigration Rebalance will streamline pathways to residence for migrants working in the Green List occupations to attract high-skilled migrants.

  • Fast-track Residence: Some can come to New Zealand from 4 July on a work visa and directly apply for residence after September 2022
  • Others can apply for residence after two years of working in New Zealand
  • Migrant workers earning twice the median wage can apply for residence after two years of being on an AEWV

For other migrant workers, the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) is an option as a pathway to residence.

Impact of the changes on current & other visa holders

The Immigration Rebalance changes focus on the future and migrants coming to New Zealand to work in permanent roles. They don’t affect holders of visas with openwork rights like working holidaymakers. Accreditation is a requirement only from 2023. Visa conditions of current work visa holders and partners who apply for a partnership-based visa before the changes take place in December 2022 will not be affected.

What the changes mean for employers

  • The median wage threshold will not apply when hiring working holiday makers or students.
  • Changes to the current employment agreements with migrant employees are not required.
  • Employers must get accreditation by 2023

It is important to note that there are no changes for partners of New Zealanders or a specific purpose, short-term business or visitor visas, Working Holiday Schemes, the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme or other family and humanitarian categories.

Get in touch with Immigration Advisors New Zealand Ltd, which provides up-to-date immigration information so you can consider opportunities and prepare yourself for the future. To know all the required procedures, contact us at [email protected] or call on +64 09 3790219.

Author Details

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Vandana Rai

(LIA 201400900)

Vandana Rai is a Senior Licensed Immigration Adviser and has built a reputation around her rare set of skills, which could be considered ideal for her legal profession.

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