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Summary of changes to the Essential Skills Temporary work visa category

The Essential Skills changes of 28 August 2017 are designed to maintain employer access to temporary migrant workers when there are genuine shortages, and reduce expectations of settlement from temporary migrants with no pathway to residence. The 3 key changes to policy include:

  1. Remuneration used when determining the skill level of a visa applicant’s employment, with consequences on the visa length and whether the visa holder’s partner or dependent child(ren) can apply for visas on the basis of their relationship.
  2. People who have held Essential Skills work visas for 3 years for lower-skilled employment must spend 12 consecutive months outside NZ before they can get another Essential Skills work visa for lower-skilled employment. If you are subject to a stand-down period you can still apply for another type of visa, or an Essential Skills work visa based on mid- or higher-skilled employment.
  3. Family members cannot be granted visas based on their relationship to an Essential Skills work visa holder who is undertaking lower-skilled work

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The changes to the Essential Skills work visa category include:

  • Remuneration bands are now used to help assess the skill level of employment in this visa scheme
  • A maximum duration of 3 years for Essential Skills workers in lower-skilled employment is introduced. After 3 years, these workers will need to spend 12 consecutive months outside New Zealand before they can be granted a further Essential Skills visa to undertake lower-skilled work
  • Partners and children of Essential Skills workers in lower-skilled employment must now meet the requirements for a visa in their own right
  • There are transitional instructions for existing visa holders. These will allow partners and children of Essential Skills workers in lower-skilled employment to remain in New Zealand if they already hold a visa based on their relationship
  • Specific immigration instructions now allow international students who transition to lower skilled employment to continue to support work and student visa applications for their family, if they were able to support those applications while studying
  • New visa conditions now require that visa holders continue to be paid above the relevant remuneration threshold and that they provide evidence of remuneration payment if requested by an Immigration New Zealand officer.

The skill band thresholds are

Specific visa conditions now apply to each of these bands

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