New immigration policy changes in effect will impact employers

A number of recently announced immigration policy changes are coming into effect on Monday 26 November, which will have an effect on employers.

The first is a significant update to Post-Study work rights for student visa holders. These changes have been made in part to reduce the likelihood of the exploitation of migrants.

These changes are as follows:

  • The Employer-Assisted Post-Study work visa (WD1) has been removed.
  • A three-year post-study open work visa is available for bachelor’s degree or above qualifications.
  • A one-year post-study open work visa is available for students studying New Zealand Qualification Framework level 4 to 6 and non-degree level 7 qualifications, with an additional year available for Graduate Diploma students whose qualification and work is needed for registration with a professional or trade body.
  • A time-bound, two-year post-study open work visa is available for students studying level 4 to 6 and non-degree level 7 qualifications outside Auckland (study must be completed by the end of 2021).
  • Students who held a student visa or were in the process of applying for a student visa to study towards an eligible qualification as at 8 August 2018 will be able to apply for:
    • A three-year post-study open work visa on completion of their qualification
    • A two-year post study open work visa if they have previously held a one year open post study work visa, on completion of their qualification(s)
  • Holders of a one year post-study work visa will be eligible to apply for a further two-year open post-study work visa.
  • Holders of a Post-Study Work Visa-Employer Assisted can apply to vary their visa conditions to remove the occupation, employer and location.

This update has benefits and drawbacks for employers. In the long term it means that employers (particularly in the hospitality and service industries) will not be able to rely on labour from students of lower level qualifications. However, the changes provide for a fair transition period of around 3 – 4 years for employers to deleverage off that reliance where they can. The transition period will also mean that they can hire migrants who have ‘open’ work visa conditions, rather than only those who hold a relevant qualification. Those migrants will also have more options, as they will not be tied to a specific employer.

The second update is a further increase to remuneration thresholds for both the Essential Skills work visa and the Skilled Migrant resident visa, as covered in our recent article. Employers will need to be aware of these thresholds if they plan on sponsoring migrants for work and/or resident visas.

Applicants applying from 26 November will need to be paid at the following rates:

Skilled Migrant Category (Residence)

  • The threshold for gaining skilled employment points will be $25 per hour for jobs at ANZSCO skill level 1, 2, or 3, and $37.50 per hour for jobs at skill level 4 or 5.
  • The threshold for bonus points for high remuneration will be $50 per hour.

Essential Skills (Temporary Work Visa)

  • The mid-skilled remuneration threshold will be $21.25 per hour for jobs at ANZSCO skill level 1, 2, or 3, and $37.50 per hour for ANZSCO skill level 4 or 5 roles.
  • The high-skilled remuneration threshold will be $37.50 per hour.

The new thresholds are based on the New Zealand median salary and wage rate of $25 per hour (up 2.9% from last year), equivalent to $52,000 per annum for a 40 hour per week job. These will continue to be updated annually.

For the Skilled Migrant Category changes, employers should specifically note that employees who have existing work visas on lower rates but have not already applied for residency (before 26 November), those employees will need an increase in their remuneration to now apply even though their existing work visas allow them to continue on their current remuneration rates until their temporary visas expire.

For further information or assistance, please contact Lane Neave on +64 3 379 3720 or email

Workplace Law team

If you have any queries in respect of the above, or any other Workplace Law issues, please contact a member of Lane Neave’s Workplace Law team:

Employment: Andrew Shaw, Fiona McMillan, Gwen DrewittMaria Green,  Hannah Martin, Joseph HarropHolly StruckmanAlex Beal, Giuliana Petronelli, Abby Shieh
Immigration: Mark Williams, Rachael Mason, Daniel Kruger, Nicky Robertson, Julia StrickettKen Huang, Mary Zhou, Shi Sheng Cai (Shoosh)Sarah Kirkwood, Janeske SchutteLingbo Yu
ACC: Andrew Shaw
Health and Safety: Andrew ShawFiona McMillan

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