Longer Essential Skills visas, easier process for renewals

The Government has brought positive news for onshore migrants and New Zealand employers which will impact Essential Skills work visa applications from 19 July 2021. This is a temporary measure to alleviate skills shortages.

This announcement is meant to ease employers' concerns about labour shortages

Maximum duration of Essential Skills work visas

From 19 July 2021, the Government is extending the maximum duration of an Essential Skills work Visa for a job paid below the median wage ($27/hour) from 12 to 24 months.

The duration of Essential Skills visas for roles paid the median wage or above remains at up to three years.

"The Government is making it easier for businesses to continue employing their current migrant workers," Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi said.

Simplified process for work visa renewals

A lighter process for the applicant

New COVID measures will apply for work visa holders applying to renew their visas. This means applying for a visa to continue working in the role they currently hold. Applicants will not need to include an employment agreement with their new Essential Skills visa application, and they will not have to provide medical and police certificates, if these were previously supplied with a visa application. As of 5 August 2021, the requirement to produce updated police certificates and/or medicals is also waived for the accompanying family (partner/dependent children).

Fewer requirements for the employer

From the employer's perspective, the requirement to prove there are no New Zealanders available will be waived for these renewal applications. This decision will be very welcome by employers would could not understand the rationale behind having to advertise for a role when they wish to continue employing the same migrant worker.

A labour market test will still be required for vacant roles, new applications, or a change in the region the worker is employed.

Who is eligible?

The requirement for a labour market test is waived for any applicant who has commenced their employment before the date the visa application is made and are on:

  • a work visa of any type
  • a student visa with conditions allowing unlimited work (PhD or some Master's students
  • a Critical Purpose visitor visa either granted for 6 months for health workers or more than 6 months for 'other critical workers'/approved classes of workers.

Transitional application process

From 19 July 2021 until 28 August 2021, a paper-based form on the INZ website will be used for these applications. From 30 August 2021, applicants will be able to use the online system.

These changes are expected to remain in place until mid-2022, though a firm date is yet to be confirmed.

Accredited Employer Work Visa temporarily deferred

As a result of these COVID measures extending the duration of Essential Skills Work visas, the introduction of the Accredited Employer Work Visa, previously scheduled for 1 November 2021, will be temporarily deferred to the middle of 2022.

Contact our team for any questions