Clear Message to Low-Skill Workers: A Critical Analysis of Recent Work Visa Changes

By Harris Gu | Immigration | Immigration Law | Accredited Employer Work Visa

Recently, the Minister of Immigration introduced significant alterations to the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) scheme, particularly affecting low-skill workers. This blog delves into these changes and their implications.

The New Policy

Under the new rules, AEWV holders in ANZSCO levels 4 and 5 occupations (e.g. cleaners, housekeepers, general labourers, waiters and waitresses)—those with qualifications equivalent to NCEA levels 1, 2, or 3—can no longer support work, visitor, or student visa applications for their partners and dependent children. This move is seen as a rollback to pre-existing conditions under the Essential Skills Work Visa (ESWV).

Government's Justification

Immigration Minister Erica Stanford explained that these changes are designed to balance the influx of highly skilled workers with New Zealand’s infrastructural and social service capacities. The goal is to ensure that housing, healthcare, and educational services are not overburdened.

The change was anticipated, given that the Minister had told the media in April that 52,000 very low-skilled workers were brought into the country under the AEWV scheme. However, the change did not go through public consultation and came into immediate effect, hence the decision being labelled ‘ruthless’.

Impact on Migrant Workers

The Union Network of Migrants, part of FIRST Union, has criticized the changes as abrupt and lacking stakeholder consultation. They argue that migrant workers, who have made long-term plans based on existing policies, are now facing significant disruptions to their lives and families. This shift is seen as particularly ruthless given the reliance on migrant labour during critical times, only to be sidelined during periods of austerity.

The Union’s view, however, neglected the fact that low-skill workers never had a pathway to residence and earlier AEWV changes had already capped the total visa duration to 5 years. Therefore, it was never the Government’s (previous and current) intention to see low-skill workers having any long-term plans. Further, the change does not affect existing visa holders and those who already had their respective applications submitted before the change took place.

Broader Implications

A recent review of the AEWV scheme highlighted issues such as migrant exploitation and improper accreditation of employers. These findings have cast a shadow over the scheme's implementation and efficacy. Indeed, inevitably, Immigration New Zealand was the driving force behind these issues that have thrown the migration workforce off the balance.


These visa changes send a clear message to low-skill workers: their contributions are valued only when convenient. The Minister was within her right to certify any Immigration Policy as she sees fit. However, given that the change did not go through the ‘democratic process’ and did not visa applicants any room for manoeuvre, it would seem unfair and harsh for those impacted by the change.

For more detailed information, you can read the original article here.