Employers will lead a new process for employing migrant workers

From 2021, employers wishing to employ migrant workers on the new temporary work visa will use a 3-step process.

  1. An employer check — it will be mandatory for all employers, including those with an existing accreditation, to be accredited under the new application process before they can hire migrants on the new work visa.

  2. A job check — this will include checking that the job is paid in line with the New Zealand market rate and, in some cases, will include a labour market test to ensure New Zealand workers are not available.

  3. A worker check — when the worker applies for a visa, they must show they meet our standard character, identity and health requirements, as well showing they have the skills to do the job they have been offered.

What an employer-led process can achieve

The changes aim to improve how New Zealand's temporary workforce operates by ensuring that:

  • migrant workers are only recruited for genuine labour shortages

  • regional and sector differences in the labour market are recognised when migrant workers are employed

  • employers are encouraged to employ and train more New Zealanders.


The employer check and accreditation

INZ are still working through the details of the accreditation process and consulting with employers in order to get a streamlined process. The 3 levels of accreditation will be:

  • standard accreditation

  • high-volume accreditation — this is for employers who want to hire 6 or more migrant workers in a year, and

  • labour hire employer accreditation.

The job check

Labour market tests will still be used but not for every job. For example, employers will not need to undertake a labour market test if they offer high-paid work in rural areas and smaller towns.

Labour market tests will need to be done for all low-paid jobs.

The worker check

The worker check is the last stage of the application process and will check that a migrant worker meets immigration health and character requirements. We carry out these checks when we assess the visa application they submit.

Employing migrant workers — what is changing

Some visas and employer schemes will be replaced

From 2021, a new temporary work visa will replace 6 existing visas:

  • Essential Skills Work Visa

  • Essential Skills Work Visa — approved in principle

  • Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa

  • Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa

  • Silver Fern Job Search Visa, and

  • Silver Fern Practical Experience Visa.

At the same time 2 employer schemes will be removed:

  • approval in principle (AIP) before an employer hires workers on an Essential Skills Work Visa

  • accreditation as a Talent Accredited Employer.

Visas and employer schemes that are not affected

Other work visas and employer schemes such as the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme and working holiday visas are not impacted by these changes. We have provided a full list of visas that are not affected with our more detailed information for employers.

Skill-levels and wages

Currently, jobs under the Essential Skills work visa policy are assigned a skill band based on a combination of the pay and the categorisation of the job on ANZSCO. The skill band determines:

  • whether an employer needs to engage with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD)

  • the duration of the visa

  • whether the visa holder is limited to a maximum of 3 years in New Zealand, and

  • if the visa holder can support family to come to New Zealand.

From mid-2020, we will not use ANZSCO in this assessment and instead use only the rate of pay. High-paid jobs will be defined as those that pay at or above the median wage, and low-paid jobs are those that pay below the median wage. High-paid jobs will receive the same benefits as jobs that are currently categorised as mid- or high-skilled, and low-paid jobs will be treated the same as low-skilled jobs.


When the changes take effect

The changes will be happen in stages over the next 18 months and be completed in 2021. There is nothing you need to do now to change the way you hire migrants unless you are a Talent Accredited Employer.

Changes to Talent Accredited Employer:

From 7 October, there are changes for Talent Accredited Employers, including to the salary you must offer your employees before they can apply for a Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa. The Salary you must offer your employee is increased to NZD 79,560.00 Annually or $38.254 per hour.

Changes in 2020

In mid-2020, the current system of assessing jobs based on skill-bands will change. We will classify jobs as low- or high-paid based on whether they are paid above or below the median New Zealand wage, instead of using a combination of the ANZSCO classification and pay to determine skill bands.


From the end of 2020 we will start to negotiate sector agreements for employing migrant workers with 2 industries that hire large numbers of migrant workers: residential care (including aged care) and meat processing. There are 4 other sectors which have been identified for negotiations so far.

If you work in one of these sectors, in the future you will need to hire migrant workers under the terms of your sector’s agreement with us.

Changes in 2021

From 2021, the way you employ temporary migrant workers will change.

We are:

  • introducing a new visa which replaces 6 current visas

  • bringing in accreditation for all employers hiring migrant workers on the new visa

  • removing 2 existing employer schemes, and

  • tailoring visa policies to recognise 3 distinct labour market situations across New Zealand.

Employing migrant workers under a sector agreement

Introducing sector agreements

Over the next 18 months we will be making changes to the way employers hire migrant workers. This includes introducing sector agreements for some industries.

If you are an employer, there is nothing you need to change now in the way you hire migrants, even if you are in a sector that will be negotiating a sector agreement.

The benefits of sector agreements

Some industry sectors rely on temporary migrant workers, particularly workers that are low-paid — that is, workers who are paid below the median wage, currently NZD $25 an hour. These employers and their workers can benefit from agreements that apply across the whole workforce.

Under a sector agreement, employers will have more certainty about hiring migrant workers and the compliance costs are likely to be lower than for the normal recruitment process .

What a sector agreement covers

A sector agreement will include:

  • information about the sector and its workforce such as labour supply and demand forecasts

  • a workforce plan that would show how the sector plans to place more New Zealanders in jobs

  • details about how migrant workers will be employed in the specific occupation covered by the sector agreement over the duration of the agreement.

Employers who must comply with a sector agreement

Employers who are recruiting migrants for occupations covered by a sector agreement must:

  • be accredited, and

  • comply with the agreement if their workers are paid below the median wage.

Sectors we will negotiate with

We have identified the following sectors that we will negotiate with initially:

  • residential care (including aged residential care)

  • meat processing

  • dairy

  • forestry

  • road freight transport

  • tourism and hospitality.

The construction, and horticulture and viticulture sectors are also likely candidates.

We will negotiate with 2 sectors at a time starting with the residential care and meat processing sectors from October 2019. We expect these 2 agreements to be completed in 2020.

What is changing in Main cities and Rural New Zealand

We are bringing in a system for categorising the labour needs of New Zealand cities and the regions outside our main cities.

Some of the changes include:

  • replacing the regional skill-shortage lists, but keeping them for Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin

  • helping employers attract high-skilled migrants to work in the rural areas, and smaller towns and cities

  • making agreements with industry sectors that employ a large number of migrant workers.

In the future policies for temporary work visas, will be informed by advice from new Regional Skills Leadership Groups that will provide information to us about the skills needed in their regions.


Until the above changes are introduced- Please follow the below:

As an Employer it can be daunting and a confusing process to hire overseas skilled labour. However, you can employ overseas employees provided you comply with all relevant employment and immigration laws in force in New Zealand.  This includes: 

  • paying employees the appropriate statutory minimum wage or other contracted industry standard; and 

  • meeting holiday and special leave requirements or other minimum statutory criteria, e.g. health and safety obligations; and 

  • only employing people who have authority to work in New Zealand; and

  • living and running a business in New Zealand lawfully yourself


Also, before your employee can commence work, they must obtain a work or resident visa. CONTACT US to determine relevant visa options. 

If the Employee is in New Zealand the same information applies as above, although the process for obtaining a work visa may be slightly different.

As an employer you’ll need to show Immigration NZ that you meet all of the criteria for accreditation – you can do this by providing the evidence we ask for. Before we make a decision about your accreditation application, we may consult with relevant New Zealand unions and other government agencies.What you need to do is stated as follows : 

Financial position

Your company must be in a sound financial position. If available, you must provide the following business records covering at least 2 financial years:

  • annual reports

  • financial statements

  • business plans

  • company profile and registration details.

Human resources

You have good human resource practicesand you need to provide information about the structure of your business and how you manage your employees, including:

  • an organisation chart showing how many people you employ and the areas they work in

  • documents outlining your human resource policies and processes

  • health and safety documents

  • copies of standard employment agreements

  • details of any redundancies in your business within the last year.

Workplace practices

You must have good workplace practices. When you complete your 'Employer Accreditation Application', we’ll ask you:

  • about your compliance with employment and immigration law

  • for your authority to contact other New Zealand government agencies to assess if you meet this requirement.

Training and employing New Zealanders

You must be committed to training and employing New Zealanders. Evidence of your commitment can include:

  • proof of any in-house training or development programmes

  • proof of your involvement with New Zealand Industry Training Organisations

  • invoices for your employees to attend external training courses

  • apprenticeship or graduate programmes

  • any other documents you think show that you’re committed to training and employing New Zealanders.

You apply for employer accreditation

You need to Complete the 'Employer Accreditation Application' and send it to Immigration NZ together with your application fee and supporting documents.

To make sure your application is processed in time, it’s a good idea to apply 3 months before you need to start recruiting.

INZ will make a decision about your application

INZ will assess your application as soon as possible and before making a decision they may ask you to 

consult with unions and other government agencies, ask for you more information, ask to visit your worksite or ask you to attend an interview.

Once your accreditation application is approved, your accreditation will be valid for 12 months and your name will be added on the 'Accredited Employers List'.