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Employers must comply with employment and immigration law

Migrant workers have the same employment rights as New Zealanders

Understanding your obligations as an employer wanting to recruit migrants may seem daunting at first glance. However, it is not very different to hiring Kiwis.

Offering a role

The onus is on employers to check if a person has the legal right to work in New Zealand (as per the Immigration Act 2009). However, a common misconception is that a person must have a valid work visa to be offered a job. This is incorrect. A migrant can be offered and can accept a role before they have a work or resident visa. They must however have the visa approved by the time they start work.

If you have the candidate's authority to do so, you may check their visa status on VisaView for employers. Alternatively, you must ask for a document showing they have valid work rights, such as en eVisa, an Australian passport, or other approved travel documents.

In some cases, your candidate may already be allowed to work in New Zealand. Many temporary visa holders have work rights on their current visas. See more on work rights here.

Penalties and fines for hiring or continuing to hire a person who cannot legally work for you can reach NZD$50,000.

Terms and conditions

You must offer to a migrant candidate the same terms of employment as you would a New Zealand citizen or resident. In essence, you must offer the same hourly rate and workplace standards.

A foreign national being offered employment in New Zealand must be offered the legal minimums in terms of:

  • written employment agreement
  • pay rates
  • Break and holiday entitlements
  • Sick, parental and bereavement leave
  • Health & safety
  • Accurate pay and holiday records

Penalties for exploiting a migrant worker will at minimum trigger sanctions. You will be put on a list of non-compliant employers and will not be able to hire migrants again for a period of time. Maximum penalties for severe breach can reach NZD$100,000 and a term of seven years imprisonment.

Read more about breaches of minimum employment standards

Immigration Advice

Immigration Advice is a regulated industry in New Zealand

Only people who are licensed can provide advice on New Zealand immigration matters, unless they are exempt under the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007. People who are exempt include New Zealand lawyers and Citizens Advice Bureau staff. (source Immigration website).

Immigration advice is defined in the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007 as:

“Using or purporting to use, knowledge of or experience in immigration to advise, direct, assist, or represent another person in regard to an immigration matter relating to New Zealand, whether directly or indirectly and whether or not for gain or reward”.

As an employer, you have no right to provide immigration advice.

What is not allowed

  • advise on the suitable visa category for a person's particular circumstances
  • advise on the documentation required
  • advise on the forms required

What is allowed

  • point to publicly available information
  • point to a licensed immigration adviser or lawyer
  • complete employer-related forms as part of a visa application
  • provide settlement services

Labour market test

Some employer-assisted visa categories require that you ensure no New Zealander can be found to fill the position, before you offer a role to a foreign national. This is commonly referred to as the labour market.

Find our more about the labour market test

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