New Zealand plans a new work visa system

Accredited Employer Work Visa

On 1 November 2021, Immigration New Zealand (“INZ”) will introduce the Accredited Employer Work Visa (“AEWV”). AEWV is a single work visa, replacing six existing work visa categories:

  • Essential Skills Work Visa
  • Essential Skills Work Visa – Approval in Principle
  • Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa
  • Long Term Skills Shortage List Work Visa
  • Silver Fern Job Search Visa
  • Silver Fern Practical Experience Visa.

AEWVs will be issued for either 12 months or 3 years, depending on policy criteria.

Employer accreditation applications can be filed from late September in anticipation of the 1 November implementation date. There will be a high volume of employer applications so expect significant processing delays.

For those employees who have work visas expiring in the next 12 months, employers are encouraged to apply now for new work visas under the current scheme. This will postpone the need to apply for the new AEWV employer accreditation and avoid the expected processing delays when the new policy comes into effect.

Employers will not be required to obtain the new employer accreditation until they need to employ a new migrant worker or renew an existing employee’s visa, on an AEWV. Employees on existing work visas do not trigger the requirement to obtain the new employer accreditation – this only applies to workers applying for the AEWV.

Application Process

Stage 1: Employer Check

From 1 November 2021, any employer wanting to employ a migrant on an AEWV will have to be accredited (employer checked). This must be made, and paid for, by the employer. This is a new system with three types of employer accreditations:

  1. Standard – for employers with up to 5 AEWV workers
  2. High Volume – for employers with 6 or more AEWV workers.
  3. Other – for labour-hire companies and franchise employers.

If approved, employer accreditation will be given for an initial 12 months. Upon renewal, standard and high volume employers can be granted accreditation for another 24 months while other employers (labour-hire and franchise) can only extend their accreditation for another 12 months.

Standard requirements

To become an “accredited employer” the standard requirements must be met. These requirements are intended to ensure that all employers hiring migrants meet the minimum requirements to support and settle migrants and comply with employment and immigration laws. The requirements are that the employer:

  1. Must be genuinely operating business
  2. Be registered as an employer with IRD and hold a NZBN
  3. Provide evidence that they are:
    1. Profitable, or
    1. Have a positive cash flow, or
    1. Have sufficient capital or external investment, or
    1. Have a plan to ensure the business remains ongoing.
  4. The business owner(s) must not be bankrupt.
  • Must not have a recent history of regulatory non-compliance
  • INZ will ensure that the employer is compliant with New Zealand law, which includes checking whether the employer:
    •  is not on the Labour Inspectorate stand down list,
    • is compliant with immigration law,
    • key officeholders are not prohibited from acting as a director or have a pattern of immigration offences in other businesses they have been involved in,
    • is not a phoenix company.
  • Must take steps to minimise the risk of exploitation
  • Allow migrant workers time to complete online employment rights modules during paid work hours. These free modules inform employees about their essential employee information including their legal rights.
  • Pay all recruitment costs in New Zealand and outside New Zealand but not including airfares.
  • Ensure that everyone who makes recruitment decisions completes online employment modules (informs employers of their responsibilities to employees and as rights as employers). Employers should keep records to show they have met the requirements.
  • Employers must also provide migrant workers with:
    • work-related settlement information like how to get an IRD number, relevant industry training and qualification information and options, and specific job or industry hazards.
    • local community and services information including accommodation options, transport, cost of living, how to access healthcare services, Citizens Advice Bureau services and relevant community groups, like religious or migrant groups.
  • There must be no charge fees outside New Zealand which include:
    • Payments to secure a job.
    • Oral agreements for deductions in pay.
    • Bonding agreements for an unlawful purpose.

High volume requirements

In relation to high volume employer accreditation, the employer will also need to show a commitment to improving pay and conditions for all employees over time. In order to do this, employers will need to ensure all jobs submitted at the Job Check either meet a minimum pay requirement of 10 percent above the minimum wage or are covered by a collective agreement.

Franchisee requirements

In relation to franchisees, they will need to meet all the requirements listed above (if they do not employ 6 or more AEWV workers then they did not have to comply with the high-volume requirements) as well as show:

  • have been operating for at least 12 months; and
  • have a history of hiring New Zealand workers.

Employers placing migrants with third parties

These rules relate to employers who are:

  • labour-hire companies
  • employers who send migrant employees on secondment to a third party
  • parent or umbrella companies who place their migrant employees with a third party such as a subsidiary company or branch that is a separate legal entity.

In addition to meeting the standard requirements (or high volume if they employ 6 or more AEWV workers), these employers will have to ensure:

  • their business has a NZBN
  • have good systems in place to monitor employment and safety conditions on site
  • have a history of contracting labour for the past 12 months
  • demonstrate that at least 15% of their workforce being placed with third parties are New Zealanders in full-time employment (i.e. at least 30 hours a week)

Stage 2: Job Check

This check will confirm the job pays the market rate, the employment agreement complies with New Zealand employment laws and a labour market test which shows that the employer has made a genuine attempt to recruit New Zealanders for the role before offering the role to a migrant worker.

Jobs paying 200 % of the median wage do not need a labour market test. Jobs paying at, or above, the median wage in regions also do not need a labour market test. In cities, jobs that are on a skills shortage list and pay at, or above, the median wage do not need a labour market test.

Where industries hire large numbers of migrant workers, sector agreements may be negotiated with them and INZ. Agreements will include a workforce plan and conditions on recruiting a temporary migrant worker for specific occupations in the sector. These agreements have been delayed due to COVID.

Stage 3: Migrant Worker Check

This is where the employee applies for the AEWV. The worker must show they meet INZ’s character, identity and health requirements, and meet the skills and experience stipulated as part of the employer’s job check application.

Timeline to Prepare for Changes


  • Employers and their migrant workers who have visas expiring in the next 12 months should apply, in our opinion, for new work visas.
  • Current accredited employers should transition any eligible employees (who are paid $79,560 or more) onto work-to-residence work visas to secure their pathway to residence to avoid any uncertainty.

30 June 2021

  • Last day to apply for accreditation for Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa/Work-to-residence work visas under the current regime.

Late September

  • Applications for the new employer accreditation can commence.

31 October 2021

  • Last day to apply for any of the work visa types being discontinued – including the work-to-residence work visas. New essential skills work visas should be made by this date also.

1 November 2021

  • AEWV accreditation and regime begins.

Please note this information is from the promotional material on the Immigration New Zealand website. The rules themselves (immigration instructions) have not yet been released. The information in this article could therefore be subject to change.

Sahadev Naran


Ryken and Associates

11 June 2021

Download the PDF: Accredited Employer Work Visa