Significant changes to the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) and the potential effects on migrant workers

By Bradley So

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

If you currently hold an AEWV these changes will not impact your visa conditions or duration. However, it may affect how long you may be able to stay in New Zealand at one time. This is known as “maximum stay”, once a migrant worker reaches their maximum stay period, they must leave New Zealand.

It’s important to stay up to date and understand the implications of these changes, especially if you’re a current AEWV visa holder or considering applying for an AEWV.

What do these changes mean for migrant workers?

Firstly, the changes made by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) have a significant effect on “lower-skilled” workers. Previously, AEWV holders in all employment sectors could stay in New Zealand for a maximum of five years.

However under the new rules, INZ 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, and the requirements for occupations of skill levels 1 - 3 and skill levels 4 and 5 are different in terms of the visa duration, maximum stay, 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.

Migrant workers in Level 4 and 5 Skill Level roles will now receive a two-year visa, extendable for one year with a new Job Check, thus limiting their maximum stay to three years in total.

Shorter visa durations and 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. 

Please note, that exemptions exist for workers in Level 4 or 5 roles who earn 1.5 times the median wage (currently $47.71 an hour), are listed on the Green List, or are already part of a Sector Agreement residence pathway.

Increased requirements for all AEWV applicants

All AEWV applicants must now meet a minimum skill threshold and provide evidence of relevant qualifications and work experience evidence to prove their suitability for the role. In addition to this, ANZSCO Level 4 and 5 roles must also meet a minimum English Language requirement of IELTS Level 4.

The minimum skill requirement is outlined below:

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

Evidence of meeting the minimum skill requirement

During the recruitment process, your prospective employer will now be ensuring you can meet the minimum skill requirement. For example, a Curriculum Vitae outlining your work experience on its own is not credible evidence of relevant work experience.

Employers and INZ will be seeking evidence such as:

  • Evidence of relevant work experience for at least 3 years; or
  • A qualification that specifies the type of qualification, the awarding institution, and is at least a Level 7 Bachelor’s Degree; or
  • A relevant qualification certificate, that specifies the type of qualification and the awarding institution that is at least NZQCF Level 4 or above.

Please note that applicants should be able to provide at least 3 years of credible supporting documents such as certificates, payslips, employment agreements, and previous employment reference letters.

Important information for current AEWV holders

If you currently hold an AEWV your application was submitted between 21 June 2023 and 6 April 2024, and you were paid the median wage ($29.66) at the time of submission, then you are still eligible for a maximum stay of 5 years.

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


We recognize that these sudden changes from INZ will be upsetting to many existing AEWV holders and migrant workers who wish to come to New Zealand. Staying informed about these changes and ensuring you are properly advised and represented is essential.

Queen City Law offers professional legal advice and comprehensive services to assist with any immigration concerns you may have, potential work visa applications as well as your employer's accreditation and job check applications.

Please contact us for further information or personalised guidance on any concerns you may have.

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.