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Employing staff from overseas on your dairy farm involves complying with New Zealand's latest immigration rules and regulations. This page covers various updates including the importance of current visas, post-accreditation checks, extensions, and rights for working holiday visa holders, median wage increase, extension to the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) employer accreditation, and details on the AEWV. Additionally, it highlights the current absence of special requirements due to Covid-19 and offers advice on visa applications and helping migrant staff settle. Keeping up to date with Immigration New Zealand (INZ) and consulting licensed immigration advisers is recommended.
Trial periods no longer permitted within AEWV
Employers are no longer able to use 90-day job trial periods in employment agreements when hiring people on an Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV). This impacts any job check that will be assessed from 29 October 2023. In practice this means employment agreements provided with job check applications must not include a trial period. This new rule does not apply to international employees who already hold, or have applied for, and AEWV based on a job check that was approved prior to 29 October 2023 or applications based on already-approved job checks.
AEWV processing times
There is an increase in processing times for the employer accreditation and job check phases of the AEWV. This is because Immigration NZ is making more requests for further information from employers to confirm job vacancies are current, vacancies are genuine and that employers can support the international employees they plan to hire. INZ is recommending that currently employers allow at least 6 weeks for each of the accreditation and job check phases.
Accredited Employer Work Visa durations to be extended
From November 2023 the maximum duration of an AEWV will be extended from three years to five years. This will apply to new visas whilst existing visa holders can apply for a further visa to get up to five years in total (including time already spent on an AEWV). Employers will not need to do a separate job check for the second AEWV if the person’s employment conditions remain the same.
Stand down period to be introduced for AEWV
From November 2023, the government is introducing a maximum continuous stay of five years on an AEWV for those who are not clearly on a pathway to residence. This would mean people need to leave NZ for 12 months before applying for another AEWV. It is not expected this will impact many people in dairy because the roles of herd manager and above are on the Green List which provides a work to residency pathway. It does mean if someone has not progressed from farm assistant to herd manager within five years they would need to stand down.
Post-accreditation checks are underway
On the 14 April 2023 MBIE started working with employers to monitor compliance with the accreditation requirements of the AEWV. The goal is to identify any possible migrant worker exploitation. Any accredited employer may be selected for this process.
Extensions and greater work rights for working holiday visa holders
The government has recently made several changes which allow people travelling on working holiday visas to work more easily and for longer in NZ. Some of this group now have open work rights and many of them can stay for much longer in NZ as well as in greater numbers. People on working holiday visas must be paid at least minimum wage and in compliance with NZ employment law. This could be an option worth exploring.
Median wage increase
On the 27 February 2023 the median wage increased from $27.76 to $29.66. It is a requirement that people working on an AEWV are paid median wage for every hour that is worked. Accommodation may be deducted. The new rate is not retrospective however it does apply for all job checks and new visa applications from 27 February. Job checks approved do not need to be resubmitted at the new rate but the visa application must meet it. Read the news release.
Extension to AEWV employer accreditation
On the 23 February 2023 Immigration NZ announced that the initial employer accreditation period for the AEWV will be automatically extended by 12 months if employers apply before 4 July 2023. Effectively this means these employers receive 2 years of accreditation rather than 1 year. Read more here.
Accredited Employer Work Visa
On 4 July 2022, the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) process opened. which effectively replaced the Essential Skills Work Visa and is the visa needed by most international employees to work on NZ dairy farms. More information can be found on our Accredited Employer Work Visa page or visit the Immigration New Zealand website.
Best advice is to act early as the process can take some time. Ensure that applications include all the necessary information to avoid delays. Some dairy farmers use a licensed immigration adviser to assist with the visa application process. Whilst not essential, it can help depending on your time, skills and budget.
Immigration advice can only be given by licensed immigration advisers, lawyers, MPs and their staff. Find a licenced immigration advisor.
After all the cost and effort involved in getting migrant workers here, it makes sense to do all you can to help them settle and thrive. Immigration New Zealand has excellent resources for supporting your migrant staff.