Changes for low skill visas introduced in New Zealand

by Ray Clancy on April 13, 2016

People from abroad who are not highly skilled professionals may find it harder to get a job in New Zealand due to changes in work visa rules.

Employers will now have to make lower skilled employment opportunities available to New Zealanders before supporting a work visa to fill the vacancy.

The changes mean that employers considering hiring a migrant for a lower skilled role will now be required to engage with Work and Income at the beginning of the process to ensure there is no New Zealander available to do the job first.


Following a successful trial, all low skilled Essential Skills work visa applications lodged after 11 April 2016 must include a Skills Match Report completed by Work and Income. The Skills Match Report improves certainty for employers and visa applicants and speeds up the visa application process when no New Zealanders are available.

Previously, Immigration New Zealand contacted Work and Income after a work visa application was lodged. If Work and Income advised that New Zealanders were available, this would have a detrimental effect on the visa application processing time and often the outcome.

The process did not allow for employers to be put in contact with any suitable New Zealanders identified. By enabling employers to engage with Work and Income before identifying a migrant and supporting a work visa application, employers now have the ability to consider suitable New Zealand jobseekers if they are available as well as certainty about the advice provided to Immigration New Zealand.

Under the new rules low skilled Essential Skills work visa applications will be returned without processing if a valid Skills Match Report is not included. However, this does not apply in Canterbury, where employers must engage with the Canterbury Skills and Employment Hub set up in the aftermath of the earthquakes to deal with demand conditions in the city.

“The Government is committed to getting more New Zealanders into work by ensuring they are first in line for jobs. We know employers want people with the right attitude, who are resilient and have good people skills, and we want to provide employers with the best candidates,” said Anne Tolley, Social Development Minister.

“Work and Income will be working closely with employers of low and unskilled vacancies who are looking to hire migrant workers. If Work and Income can’t fill the vacancy, a Skills Match Report will provide employers and Immigration New Zealand with consistent information about the skills required for the job,” she added.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse pointed out that engaging with work and income first ensures employers are connected directly to New Zealanders who are available to do the work and provides greater clarity for employers as to the likely outcome of a visa application before it is made.

“This process is a far more efficient way to ensure employers are satisfactorily testing the New Zealand labour market rather than routinely seeking to employ migrants,” he said.

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