As of July 2021, the biggest change to employer supported visas in years is underway. 6 current visa classes, including Essential Skills work visas and various Work to Residence visas, are being replaced by a single new Employer Accredited Work Visa (EAWV). If you employ migrants, how prepared are you for these changes?

Key dates:

  • From 30 June 2021, Immigration New Zealand will not accept any new or renewal employer accreditation applications made under the existing scheme.
  • In late September 2021 new accreditation process opens  for employers
  •  31 October 2021, last day applications will be accepted under current instructions such as essential skills and work to residence categories.
  •  1 November 2021, the new AEWV category comes into force

Key changes

The new visa is touted as a 3 stage check:

  1.  The employer must be accredited to employ any migrants. This is a major change. The basics of accreditation are similar to what they are now:  sound financial position, genuine efforts to recruit locally, good employment and immigration record etc. Processing times under the new scheme are not yet known.
  2.  The job itself will be checked to ensure it meets immigration and employment requirements
  3.  Finally, the applicant will be assessed.

Key questions for employers

When do our current employees’ visas expire? If some are eligible under the current essential skills or work to residence that may be advantageous to make applications now?

If you are not currently accredited, you should be starting to prepare for accreditation. Contact our office for assistance.

What’s required for accreditation?

Employers will be able to apply for accreditation from late September 2021, ahead of the new visa being introduced on 1 November 2021. The new accreditation standards will require employers to show they:

  • are a genuinely operating business, including being registered with Inland Revenue and holding a New Zealand Business Number (NZBN),
  • do not have a recent history of regulatory non-compliance with immigration and employment laws, and
  • will take steps to minimise the risk of exploitation by completing employment modules, providing migrant workers with advice on their rights, and paying all recruitment costs inside and outside New Zealand.

Note: Franchisees and employers that want to place migrants on work visas with third parties (including labour-hire companies) will need to meet additional criteria to get accredited

  Not yet known (as of 2 July 2020)

  • Processing times: efficiency is promised for low-risk applications, but there is likely to be a backlog of employers and then applicants
  • Any pathway to residence under this new category.
  • When or if the skilled migrant category will reopen: as of June 2021, no Expressions of Interest (EOI) are being drawn from the pool, and there are said to be up to 10,000 EOI’s in the pool. A review of the Skilled Migrant Category has been signalled, but the Minister is yet to make any announcements. Change seems certain.
  • Increases in immigration application fees. Because of the impact of Covid19 Immigration New Zealand has been under financial pressure and has signalled that there will be increases in future application fees.
  • Reminder:  Work to Residence pathway in the meantime

  • Current Work to Residence applications are still open until 31 October 2021. 1.5x medium wage or a $79,560  annual income is now required. This is likely to increase on 19th July 2021 when the median wage increases to $84,240 PA.

If you are an accredited e

mployer or have staff whose roles are listed on the skill shortages lists eligible, now is the time to make applications.

Diana Bell


Contact Diana Bell, our Senior Associate, for information about all work to residence issues.

Employers can contact our office by email, phone or using our employer enquiry form. We will provide some initial free information. We have 25 years of experience within our office of the accredited employer visa, which closely resembles the new category. We are well-placed to advise you on the best way forward for your staff.