5 reasons why you shouldn’t apply for the Migrant Exploitation Protection Visa

By Sonny Lam

What is a Migrant Exploitation Protection Visa? This is a special visa available to migrant workers who have been exploited while working on an employer supported work visa. If you have reported exploitation while on an employer supported work visa, you can apply for this visa to leave your job while the exploitation is being investigated.

With this visa you can leave your current job quickly while the exploitation is being investigated, and work anywhere in New Zealand for any employer. An initial MEPV, or the further MEPV for finding a suitable job, cannot be for longer than the date on your current work visa. An initial MEPV and the further one can be up to 6 months each. It costs $0 to apply and is usually given priority processing. The total time on the MEPV is 12 months.

The purpose of the MEPV is to allow you to find another job, and then apply for another Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV). The idea is that a migrant worker will have the freedom to take any work while job hunting.

Unfortunately, recent changes in Immigration Policy means that it is not my recommendation to apply for MEPV in all circumstances. Here’s 5 reasons why:

1. Moving to an MEPV takes time

The process for applying for an MEPV is not so quick. It requires that you make a report of migrant exploitation followed by a response to the Immigration Triage team, followed by the issuance of a triage report, followed by a paper application on printed paper with printed photographs (two photos), mailed to Immigration’s processing centre, and then you wait for an outcome.

The overall workflow is:
a) Make a report (1-3 days)

b) Wait 2-4 weeks for a Triage call back

c) Wait 1-2 weeks for a report

d) Make a paper application within 1 month of the report

e) Wait for the visa result

The total time can take around 2 months, whereas a VOC may take around 2 weeks for comparison. The applicant for a MEPV may be facing around 2 months without pay.

2. Going back to AEWV from MEPV will require proof of three years of relevant work experience (or suitable qualification)

In the past, the AEWV does not require any mandatory proof of any work experience or a relevant qualification. For AEWV holders who were issued a work visa before 7 April 2024 their work visa might be approved on the basis of having zero work experience.

In this sense applying for the MEPV may end up being a trap, because the applicant will be unable to produce evidence of meeting the 3 years work experience or qualifications when the MEPV ends, and find that they are unable to continue to apply for a further AEWV.

This means that the visa holder has become trapped and unable to move on.

3. Going back to AEWV from MEPV may require proof of English competency in certain circumstances (IELTS 4.0 or equivalent)

In the past, the AEWV does not require any mandatory proof of any English language ability. English competency has never been a requirement for an employer sponsored work visa in New Zealand. 7 April 2024 changed all this.

Under the new regime, moving back to an AEWV from the MEPV will impose English requirements for the principal applicant. This is IELTS 4.0 or equivalent, or proof that the applicant comes from an English speaking background. The English requirement will mean extra costs for the worker. The cost of an IELTS test is around $445.00 NZD

In the cases where the visa holder is unable to get the IELTS result then this could mean the end of their New Zealand journey.

4. Having an MEPV may reduce your overall available time on a work visa

The MEPV is short; it gives 6 months initially followed by another 6 months if certain conditions are met. The total time is just 1 year.

For an applicant who holds a 5 year work visa and has only worked for 2 years of that time, moving on to the MEPV will mean they lose out on the extra time unless they can qualify for a further AEWV or other visa.

When considering the short time of the MEPV compared to the increased difficulty of the new AEWV requirements, I will assume many applicants who have gone onto the MEPV will find that it was a one way ticket and be asked to leave New Zealand once their 12 months ends.

5. You cannot include your partner or dependent children in the MEPV

The MEPV is for a single applicant. If you have partner or dependent children with you then you will need to make a separate application for your family. The cost for a partner visa is $700.00 and for children it can range from $246.00 to $375.00 per child. A variation of visa conditions application cost $210 and you only need to make one application for the principal applicant.

These are just some examples of why it can be dangerous to follow the trend and apply for MEPV without thinking deeply about the consequences. It could be a way to lock yourself out of a pathway to residence.

There are also other considerations which I have not mentioned but are also deeply valuable, such as whether having an MEPV will confer less legal rights than an AEWV (the answer is that it does). A particularly good example was when the 2021 RV was released, it gave ESWV (the precursor to the current AEWV) holders the right and eligibility to apply for the 2021 Residence Visa, whereas the old version of the MEPV did not! So, moving on to the MEPV can be a trap in more ways than one.

Sonny’s focus is on Employment and Immigration. He has seen governments come and go with changing policies. His experience gives him the foresight to predict your opponents actions and you will do well to have him in your corner whereas you are apply for residence or embroiled in an employment dispute.

We have taken care to ensure that the information given is accurate, however it is intended for general guidance only and it should not be relied upon in individual cases. Professional advice should always be sought before any decision or action is taken.