As promised, Immigration New Zealand have introduced a number of new rules under the Essential Skills Work Visa category. These rules came into effect from 28 August 2017.
The most striking change is the introduction of salary bands. The bands are set depending the skill level of the job as assessed by the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO). The salary band will determine what kind of Essential Skill Visa will be issued. A role with an ANZSCO skill level of 1, being paid $19.97 per hour or less, will only receive a 1 year visa without the eligibility to support a family visa application or apply for residency. These workers will now need to earn a minimum of $23.49 per hour before they will be eligible to apply for residency.
There are also salary bands for roles assessed at ANZSCO skill levels 4 and 5, which are set higher than the bands for ANZSCO levels 1 to 3. Whilst this seems counter intuitive, these changes are designed to attract people with a higher level of skill. Setting a high salary level for low skilled jobs means that workers who are being paid a higher salary for ANZSCO level 4 and 5 jobs are likely to be more experienced with well-developed skills. It is these workers that will be better placed to train New Zealand workers, and support business development. These changes will encourage migrants to move into more skilled roles if they want to remain in New Zealand. It also allows highly skilled migrants in the lower ANZSCO levels, such as truck drivers or aged care workers, to be recognised for the skills that they have, based on their ability to attract a higher wage.
It is important to note that where a migrant worker is paid a salary rather than per hour, Immigration New Zealand will calculate the equivalent hourly rate using the actual hours worked. This means that if a salaried worker is required to do more than the standard 40 hours per week, the hourly rate could be lower than expected. The good news is that now any accommodation that might be provided as part of a salary can now be included in the remuneration calculations, as long as it is taxable.
Remuneration becomes a key element of any application to Immigration New Zealand. Clear information about pay and the actual hours worked will be needed to support visas. If salary levels drop below the level for the salary band the application was made under, the employer could be considered in breach of immigration law, which has implications for that employer’s ability to hire migrants in the future.
If you or would like assistance with applying for an Essential Skills Work Visa, or you employ migrants and require advice on these changes, contact Michelle Urquhart, Paul Milne or Lauren Qiu.