Hiring overseas workers

Hiring overseas workers can seem like a real challenge for employers.  Recent proposed changes to work visas have made many employers uneasy.  However, we still have plenty of employers that we assist on a daily basis who simply can’t find the talent that they need onshore.  Here are some simple rules to assist with this:


1. Be clear about the need to recruit offshore

There is a general “kiwis first” rule.  However, we all know that isn’t always possible.  You as the employer may know that it is going to be impossibly hard to recruit locally but you need to show that to Immigration New Zealand.  Keep a track of your hiring efforts and outcomes.


Some employers keep a table of past recruitment attempts.  They list the positions that they have advertised and include details such as:

  • Where they advertised
  • With responses they have received
  • The number of candidates who followed up the initial response and were interviewed
  • The outcomes of the interviews such as “not available for after hours work; lacking essential skills; not available to travel; took another position, etc”.

If local staff have been recruited, keep a record of that as well.

When it comes to your own position you will need to demonstrate genuine attempts to recruit locally including advertising.  Make sure you advertise early.  There is no point starting to advertise just before or shortly after lodging the application.

Depending on the salary level you are likely to require a Skills Match Report from Work and Income/MSD to indicate whether New Zealanders are generally available for the role.

There are a number of skills shortages lists advertised on Immigration New Zealand’s website which indicate what kind of roles are generally unable to be filled locally.  However, there were many other roles that are not listed on those lists where the employer needs to make their own case.  Again, the key message here is that employing offshore staff is considered to be a privilege, not a right and you do need to demonstrate that you cannot find New Zealanders who can do the role or reasonably retrained to do it.

2. Be clear about the role, the ability to support it and the conditions

You need a full, compliant employment agreement and detailed job description which generally matches the description of the position on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations or ANZSCO.  This list is available on Immigration New Zealand’s website. The job description does not need to be an exact cut and paste of the words, but it should substantially match the description and the qualifications required for it.  The pay needs to be at a market rate for the position.

Employers also need to ensure that the overseas worker has the number of years work experience or qualification suitable to the role advertised.


Another area that surprises some employers is the degree to which Immigration New Zealand now check for the sustainability of the employment.  They may require the past financial accounts of the employer and recent GST returns.

Immigration New Zealand may require proof of past payments and compliance with holiday and other legal requirements.  There is a black list of employers who had been found not to comply.

In some cases, verification officers may visit the place of employment to prove that the employment is viable, they will also often send a questionnaire to the employer which needs to be answered carefully and truthfully.  All of these things need to be prepared for in advance.  The level of checking is ever increasing, and it is the employers who know what to expect that we find most likely to be successful.

3. Be aware of timeframes

Processing timeframes for some kinds of work visas have ballooned out to 90 days and employers need to be aware that Immigration New Zealand have back logs and staffing issues at present.  If you are renewing the employment of an existing staff member they will normally be entitled to an interim visa if there is no change to the terms of employment up to a maximum of six months.  Where the role is a new one or there has been a significant change to the employment, we recommend applying as much as two to three months in advance due to the current extraordinary delays.  There is the ability to seek urgency in some cases.

If employers wish to continue supporting an existing migrant worker, new work visas are never guaranteed, they must still go through the process of advertising etc.


A further thought: Think about accreditation or approval to recruit

If you are frequently needing to employ offshore staff, you can apply as an employer for accreditation (for some higher skilled roles or approval to recruit).  This requires the employer to prove all the above and more to the satisfaction of Immigration New Zealand.  There are also further checks on the trading history of the company, their past visa applications, their financial viability and if genuine efforts to employ New Zealand citizens and residents.  If you think your company will tick all of those boxes, this is definitely an option worth considering.  In some cases, accredited employment can offer pathways to residency which are not available under skilled migrant, although these rules and the income thresholds are changing.

In future it seems that employers will need to be preapproved before employing non-residents.


Getting help when employing overseas workers

The team at Pacific Legal are always aiming to assist employers with excellent outcomes.  We are well connected through the New Zealand Association of Migration and Investment and the Auckland District Law Society around the process and our Director Richard Small regularly meets with Senior Immigration New Zealand staff through those networks.  We will be delighted to add our expertise to your overseas recruitment process.

Pacific Legal provides 20-minute preliminary assessment for employers either by Skype or by appointment in person, we also have face to face interviews available at our Auckland and Wellington offices.  We have an online assessment form and once we have all the information our response time is between two and three days.

Pacific Legal is your trusted award-winning partner for all immigration matters.  To learn more about our trusted immigration services, read about the cases we’ve helped with previously or contact our friendly team today on 0800 722 534.

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