Temporary visa options for seasonal workers
Pukekohe vegetable growers who have had problems filling tractor and harvester operator positions were brought up-todate with a New Zealand Immigration presentation on temporary visa options for seasonal workers in late October.
Diana Loughnan, relationship manager, Pacifica labour and skills, told growers there could be seasonal work problems from November to March with no New Zealanders being available, pressure on industries to fill these positions every year and as a result a lack of skills retention.
Specialised harvester and tractor operators who may need to be registered or licensed are classified as skill level 4.There are five different visa options for them coming from overseas to New Zealand to work which are:
• The essential skills visa
• Approval in principle (AIP)
• Working holidays
• Work exchange schemes and
• A future seasonal visa policy.
The first, the essential skills visa, is a work visa for applicants with job offers. Their employers must demonstrate there are no NZ citizens or residents available for the work, and must offer a minimum of 30 hours work per week. They must pay at least the labour market rate and need to comply with employment law, provide a full employment contract and be financially sound. To demonstrate there are no suitable local people available for their work they need to show evidence of genuine attempts to recruit New Zealanders with a skill match report from Work and Income required for all level 4 and 5 roles.
There are three different categories for essential skills with the first being lower-skilled employment, earning less than $19.97 an hour or in the ANZSCO 4-5 class up to $35.24 an hour. Applicants here can only get one-year visa for three years then have to spend a year outside NZ. They are not allowed to bring their family with them.
For mid-skilled employment applicants can get a visa for three years with no maximum period being specified, and they are allowed to bring their family. In the ANZSCO 1-3 category pay rates are defined as being from $19.97 to $35.24 an hour. For higher-skilled employment, where workers are earning over $35.25 an hour, there’s a period of a maximum of five years for each visa.
Loughnan said tractor and harvester operators were not currently on the long-term skills shortage list (LTSSL) or Immediate Skills Shortage List (ISSL). In order for the occupation of tractor operator/harvest operator to be included the industry needed to be carrying out more forecasting. Fifty or more work visas needed to be required every year and an NZ qualification at Level 4 or more might be required.
With the Approval in Principle (AIP) schemes employers needed to establish whether they had multiple vacancies to make applying for an AIP worthwhile, given it allows an employer to make a case once for needing to recruit a vacancy, this would then allow multiple visa applications without labour market checks.
With the UK working holiday scheme to be eligible applicants needed to be British citizens, normally resident in the UK. They needed to have a minimum of $350 a month of available funds available during their stay in NZ and be between the ages of 18 and 30. Successful applicants would be granted a visa allowing them to stay in NZ for a maximum of 23 months during which they carried out 12 months of work. They can apply for 23 months upfront but would then need to provide full medical certificates. With the Ireland working holiday scheme applicants needed to be Irish citizens, have a minimum of $4200 available during their stay and also meet some additional requirements. If successful they would be granted a 12-month work visa once they arrived in NZ or the same period of time from the issue date if they were already in this country.
For other work exchange schemes applicants needed to be between 18 and 35, and be offshore when they applied. One thousand places were available every year with 450 under BUNAC, the UK agency which handles the applications. They can be for any job and would still apply if the person had already had a working holiday here. Successful applicants needed $4200 of funds available when they applied and another $200 when they landed.
When it came to future seasonal work policy Loughnan said this was part of the essential skills review looking to facilitate employers’ access to seasonal labour through the essential skills visa. Before the election there were intentions for phase 2 to include consideration of a seasonal work policy. It is unclear at this time whether the new government will continue with planned consultation.