Major changes to the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV), and what does it mean for your company? 

By Bradley So

On April 7, 2024 the New Zealand government suddenly implemented significant changes to the Accredited Employer Work Visa, also known as AEWV. 

These changes do not impact current migrant workers' visa conditions or duration if they already hold an AEWV. However, it will affect how long they may be able to stay in New Zealand at one time. This is called the “maximum stay” and migrant workers must leave New Zealand once they have reached this limit. The changes will also affect new Job Check and AEWV applications submitted from April 7, 2024. 

What do these changes mean for Accredited Employers? 

Firstly, there are now advanced requirements for employers. For instance, INZ now can suspend a company's accreditation if there is evidence of potential non-compliance with accreditation requirements. 

To put this into perspective, accreditation can now be suspended for employers under active investigation for any accreditation breach. 

For example: AEWV is based on full-time work (minimum of 30 hours per week). If employers do not provide the minimum 30 hours of work to migrants, this breaches their accreditation. 

Employers must notify INZ within ten working days if an AEWV worker leaves their employment a month or more before visa expiry. 

To ensure your company is complying with all relevant employment and immigration legislation please check our recent blog on post-accreditation checks here. Alternatively contact us to discuss how we can help.

ANZSCO Skill Levels 

Occupations for work visas will now be closely assessed by the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations skill level system, also known as “ANZSCO”.

What this means is an immigration officer will now assess the job offered to determine the occupation and skill level of the role as set out in the ANZSCO version 1.3, which can be found here.

There are five skill levels for all occupations included in the ANZSCO. The requirements for occupations of skill levels 1 - 3 and skill levels 4 and 5 are different in terms of maximum stay; Employer’s obligation to carry out labour market tests; and whether visa applicants will be subject to English language requirements. 

ANZSCO skill levels are clearly referenced on the ANZSCO website for each occupation, generally speaking:

Examples of skill level 1 - 3 occupations are: 

  • Managers;
  • Professionals;
  • Technicians;
  • Trade workers.

Examples of skill level 4 - 5 occupations are: 

  • Cleaners;
  • Construction labourers;
  • Food preparation assistants.

INZ will now decide if the job offer substantially matches the ANZSCO role declared in the Job Check and AEWV application.

What this means is that INZ may do a substantial match assessment to ensure the role on offer is substantially consistent with the declared ANZSCO role, judging by the description of the role; the core tasks listed; and the level description of the ANZSCO structure. 

It is important to note that where an employer has declared that the job offered is at ANZSCO Skill Level 1 - 3, an immigration officer could disagree and determine that the job is more in line with Skill Level 4 - 5. If this happens, the Job Check and AEWV will be assessed according to the instructions that apply to Skill Level 4 -5 occupations. 

INZ can also consider: 

  • Circumstances of the company including scope and scale of their organisation and operations
  • Qualifications and work experience required 
  • The wage offered in the employment agreement 

Therefore, it is critical to determine the correct ANZSCO code upfront as INZ are taking extra steps to ensure the genuineness of the job offer.  

Suitably skilled workers 

Employers must take reasonable steps to ensure that their candidates have the skills required for the job as well as the minimum skill requirement, which is being introduced as a part of these new changes. 

The minimum skill requirement is outlined below: 

  • The candidate must have at least 3 years of relevant work experience in the same field or industry as the position on offer; or
  •  A relevant qualification at level 4 or above; and
  • ANZSCO level 4 and 5 skilled workers are now also required to have a minimum English requirement of IELTS level 4.

There are some exceptions however, such as occupations on the Green List or when a job is paid at least 1.5 times the current median wage (currently $47.71 an hour). 

Taking reasonable steps to ensure your candidate is qualified includes: 

  • Sighting evidence of relevant work experience; or
  • Sighting a qualification, which specifies the type of qualification and the awarding institution and be at least a level 7 Bachelor’s Degree; or
  • Sighting of a relevant qualification certificate, specifying the type of qualification and the awarding institution that is at least NZQCF level 4 or above.

Employers need to note that when recruiting a candidate, a CV for example is not credible evidence of relevant work experience. Candidates should be able to provide at least 3 years of credible supporting documents such as certificates, payslips, employment agreements, and previous employment reference letters.

Increased requirements for Employers when hiring low-skilled workers 

If your company wants to hire a level 4 or 5 skilled migrants, there are now additional requirements when advertising the position during the Job Check stage. 

This involves advertising the job for an extended period of 21 days, engaging with Work and Income, and justifying why any New Zealand applicants were not hired. 

Shorter visa durations and maximum stays

Level 4 and 5 roles will now have shorter visas and shorter maximum stays.

  • ANZSCO skill level 1 - 3: Will be issued a 5-year visa and have a maximum stay of 5 years. 
  • ANZSCO skill level 4 - 5: Will be issued a 2-year visa with a possibility of a 1-year renewal; however, a new job check will be required to apply for this. Maximum stay is 3 years. 

Level 4 and 5 workers paid 1.5 times the median wage (currently $47.71 an hour), on the Green List or have a Sector Agreement residence pathway are exempt from these changes. 

Important information to note for current migrant employees

If any of your current employee’s AEWV applications were submitted between 21 June 2023 and 6 April 2024, and they were paid the median wage ($29.66) at the time of submission, then they are still eligible for a maximum stay of 5 years. 

However, if their AEWV application was submitted before 20 June 2023 or after 7 April 2024, and paid at the current median wage and a level 4 or 5 role, then they are only eligible for a maximum stay of 3 years. 

These changes are complex and rife with potential pitfalls, at Queen City Law we endeavor to streamline this process for you and make it as stress-free as possible. If you need our assistance, please get in touch with us.

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.