Immigration New Zealand has just released its Instructions about how companies apply for Accreditation to the immigration industry. They look challenging.

It is the culmination of a long-running saga. Three years ago in early 2019 I wrote a blog about this new policy that was meant to be just around the corner. Then in May 2021 I told everyone “Here it comes”. We’ve finally turned the corner and it has come – well, almost.

Timetables keep sliding back. A short while ago we thought that employers could apply to be accredited from 5 May. Now the start date is Monday, 23 May. At the time of writing we understand that people can apply for a visa to work for an Accredited Employer from Monday, 4 July. That is, of course, assuming any businesses will be accredited by then.

Flavours of Accreditation

There are 2 main types of Accreditation to go for:

  • Standard: this is for companies who want to hire up to 5 migrant workers “at any one time”. That is, once they have their 5 people on the books they cannot take any more until one of the visa holders leaves. Some interesting workplace tensions to think about there, such ass an employer constructively dismissing someone on a Work Visa so that they can take one someone else whom they think is better.

Alternatively, the employer could apply for . . .

  • High Volume Accreditation: if they wish to employ 6 or more migrants at any given time. The standards for accreditation were meant to be tougher, but it turns out that the Government hasn’t worked out what those rules will be yet, so the requirements are the same for both types, except

a. Triangular Employment Arrangements: where an employer assigns someone to a job in a “controlling third party” (CTP) business. Examples are labour hire companies and even business secondments of technical or managerial personnel. The original employer takes on a number of ongoing obligations which may make this kind of arrangement too onerous, unless hiring out staff is their core business.

b. Franchisees; who must have been in operation for at least 12 months.

In both these cases. at least 15% of the company’s full-time staff must be NZ Citizens or Residents..

What’s Involved?

A business applying for accreditation must jump through the following hoops:

  1. Are they a genuinely operating business? This mostly revolves around proving financial soundness, including requirements to have either recorded no losses in the last 2 years, or have had positive cashflow in the last 6 months. A number of businesses will struggle to meet these criteria as they recover from COVID lockdowns. Fortunately, a business can also meet this standard by showing that it is well capitalised by a parent company, or has a credible financial plan for the next 2 years. However, getting through on this last option will probably need to be very well documented to convince someone at Immigration that the business will survive and pay wages;
  2. Must provide settlement support services: Employers will have to set up systems and documentation to show that they provide information to new migrant employees on everything from specific health and safety hazards on the job, to local accommodation and cost of living. I foresee a whole new industry opening up for consultants to sell packages to employers so that they can appear to be compliant. The employer must also give sufficient paid time off in the first month for a new employee to complete Employment NZ’s online employee modules;
  3. Compliance with immigration, employment and business standards: This means that the business must not be blacklisted by Immigration for having committed employment or immigration offences, or having employed people who did not have the right visa, or if any of the directors is prohibited from running a company owing to breaches of the Companies Act.

    There is more to all of these requirements, but not enough space to set them all out.

How to Apply

You are meant to apply for Employer Accreditation online. At the time of writing, the application platform has not been opened for users to find out how it works and what is expected by way of questions and supporting evidence.

Immigration has stated that it expects to process employer applications in something like 10 working days. As we have yet to see how many businesses will apply – and it could be over 10,000 – this timeframe seems entirely speculative.

If an application is declined, you can request a reconsideration within 14 days of the date of decision. It is possible to submit new evidence which was not provided before, but a visa officer is not required to look at it, and can instead decide that the employer should file a new application.

All initial Employer Accreditations will last for only one year. After that, Accreditations will be granted for two years at a time, although triangular arrangements and franchises can only get one-year renewals.

The Bottom Line

. . . is, in my view, that employers using migrant workers should think hard about whether it is worth continuing to do so. While the Government has claimed that it wants to make accreditation a smooth process, it does not look like that right now.

It is still not clear whether people who can finally get Accredited Employer Work Visas will have a pathway to Residence. If they do at all, they will have to be paid over $112,000 p.a. salary, accordingly to what we have been told so far. This means that retaining good people long-term will be a challenge and require a lot more ongoing work.

Businesses who want to use overseas people should instead consider hiring those on Post-Study Work Visas which allow graduates to work for whoever they want, or who are on Partner Work Visas. A downside with this is that these people do not necessarily have certainty of a permanent future here either. This is the brave new world of employer-assisted visas.