New visa process ‘a tick-box exercise’
Employers bringing migrant workers into New Zealand will have to be accredited under a new Government rule, starting in July.
A leader in the farming sector says it is just more bureaucracy for farmers and will be a ‘‘tickbox’’ exercise for them to comply with.
The Government plans to transition to an accredited employer scheme, which will mean employers must be accredited to hire migrant workers on an Accredited Employer Work Visa.
The Ministry of Immigration website says there are three steps to hiring a migrant on the scheme: accreditation, a job check, and a migrant check.
Employers must meet minimum standard requirements and commitments, which vary depending on the level of accreditation they need, and a labour market test will also be conducted to ensure New Zealanders get the first chance in the job market ahead of migrant workers.
Federated Farmers immigration spokesperson Chris Lewis said while news early last week of a new class exception that will allow 300 international dairy workers to cross our border was pleasing, the new visa requirements would not achieve much.
‘‘It’s just more paper work for farmers. It actually seems like they’re just rehashing something that is already working just for the sake of it,’’ he said.
There had been instances ‘‘many years ago’’ of migrant workers being exploited, but it did not happen much at all now, he said.
‘‘Most farmers and businesses are legally compliant anyway, and you’re not going to go through that process if you’re not – you’d be a fool to try and beat the system anyway.
‘‘ It seems to come down to a little peanut of a problem being hit with a very big hammer.’’
Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said the accreditation system would standardise and simplify migrant employment processes and protect workers from any potential migrant exploitation.
‘‘The scheme will make it easier for businesses and regions to fill genuine skills shortages and will give migrants much more certainty about the visa process they have to go through and the job they’re coming here to do,’’ Faafoi said. ‘‘The new accredited system will also support the objectives of the Government’s immigration rebalance to improve pay and conditions, address skills training challenges and career paths for both migrant and local workers across sectors.’’
The accreditation requirements ensured that employers of migrant workers are familiar with New Zealand employment law, have no recent history of breaching immigration requirements of employment standards, and will undertake settlement support activities with their migrant workers.
‘‘For most employers, it is intended that the checks will be relatively light touch, so that they do not place an unreasonable compliance burden on small businesses.’’
The Accredited Employer Work Visa will replace five work visas, some of which have already been phased out.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor was asked whether the new requirements could put farmers off bring in overseas workers despite the fact that they are short-staffed.
A spokesperson for O’Connor said it would simplify the process for bringing skilled people into the country.
‘‘It will follow the phase-out of the Other Critical Worker border exception, which has been in place during the border constraints that were necessary for our Covid response pre-Omicron. At that point, the 1.5 times media wage threshold lowers to the median wage,’’ the spokesperson said.