Essential skills work visas – changes to take effect 28 August 2017

As indicated in May, there has been an ongoing consultation process with regards to New Zealand’s main employment visa, the Essential Skills work visa.

In response to a large number of submissions the government received during the consultation process, the proposed changes to the Essential Skills work visa have been slightly modified from the original proposal.

So what are the changes, and what will it mean for me or my employees?

1. Introduction of remuneration bands to dictate skill level

From 28 August, all Essential Skills work visa applications submitted will be divided into three groups:

  • Higher-Skilled – this will include any visa holder or new applicant who has an annual income (or proposed annual income) of at least $73,299, regardless of what job they are undertaking. This is set at 1.5 times the median full-time income in New Zealand
  • Mid-Skilled – this group will comprise any new or existing visa holder who is/will be earning at least 85% of the median full-time income (currently equating to $41,538) and has a job which is classified as an ANZSCO skill level 1, 2 or 3
  • Lower-Skilled – this group will comprise anyone who is/will be earning lower than $41,538 per annum, regardless of the occupation

2. Use of new remuneration bands to dictate visa length and benefits:

Important to note:

  • Those who fall into the Lower-Skilled band, and whose families are already in New Zealand, will be able to remain in New Zealand for the duration that the Essential Skills work visa holder remains legally in New Zealand. Similarly, for this group of workers, the three year maximum rule begins with the first Essential Skills work visa granted after the new changes are implemented.
  • The minimum salary threshold to qualify for residence under the Skilled Migrant category remains at $48,859. This means that whilst some workers may be eligible for a work visa under the Mid-Skilled band, they may not qualify for residence until they have gained sufficient experience and/or skills to permit them to be paid above the minimum threshold for residence.
  • The Mid-Skilled band is only for those who meet the minimum salary threshold, AND have an occupational skill level classified as 1, 2 or 3 according to ANZSCO. For those who are in skill level 4 or 5 occupations, they may only occupy the Lower or Higher skilled bands depending on salary.
  • The salary band figures will be indexed annually For any further clarification please don’t hesitate to contact me.
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