15 May 2020 – Frequently Asked Questions about visa processing under Alert Level 2

INZ staff are returning to their offices this week and will begin processing applications for Residence and Work visas again. Below are some Frequently Asked Questions about INZ’s processing under Alert Level 2:

Why am I being asked for updated information about the availability of New Zealanders?

Under current immigration instructions, INZ needs to balance facilitating businesses getting the workforce they need, and protecting the employment opportunities of New Zealanders.

COVID-19 has had significant impacts on New Zealand’s job market, and unemployment rates are rising. Assessing applications only on information provided before the impacts of COVID-19 does not align with the requirement to protect the employment opportunities of New Zealand. This means that INZ needs to ensure that no New Zealanders are available to do the work being offered, before visas are granted to any migrant employees.

Do I have to re-advertise?

Employers aren’t required to re- advertise the vacancy, but they may need to provide updated information that there are still no New Zealanders available in this current job market, to the best of their knowledge. Employers may choose to re-advertise as part of providing further evidence.

What does genuine and sustainable mean? My business is receiving the wage subsidy, does this matter?

The employment offered to Essential Skills visa applicants needs to be for real and genuine work, for at least 30 hours per week. Essential Skills work visas are granted for a period of either 12 months, three years, or five years, and consideration needs to be given to whether the work being offered is going to remain available for the entire duration of the visa. It’s likely that New Zealand’s economic situation is going to continue to change, and employers must be confident in their ability to continue trading (to the best of their knowledge).

The wage subsidy provides support for business who have experienced a reduction in revenue, and doesn’t necessarily mean the business won’t be sustainable going forward. Employers receiving the wage subsidy can still hire Essential Skills work visa applicants. 

I’m confident my business and the employment is sustainable. But what happens if my business’s situation changes, and I can’t keep my workers on?

If your business situation changes then you must go through normal employment law processes. Any work visas holders who are made redundant would then need to obtain new employment and either obtain a new work visa or vary their existing visa to begin that new employment if they wish to work and remain in New Zealand.,

What kind of things does INZ usually take into consideration if there are no New Zealanders available for the role being offered?

INZ considers a range of factors when determining whether any suitable New Zealanders are available for the work. This includes, but isn’t limited to, things like:

  • the employer’s case in support of an individual worker’s application; and
  • evidence of a genuine attempt by the employer to recruit New Zealanders, through advertising and the use of other channels, such as recruitment agencies
  • advice from Work and Income about the availability of New Zealand citizens or residence class visa holder workers to do the work offered; and
  • advice from relevant stakeholders within the particular industry, including unions


How long will it take to process the Essential Skills work visa application I’m supporting?

Due to the complexities of the situation and INZ’s current limited visa processing capability, we’re unable to give exact timeframes of when these applications will be processed. However, we aim to do so as quickly as possible given the current constraints on visa processing resources.

Can I submit this further evidence now, even though I haven’t been asked for it yet?

INZ will request additional evidence at the time the application is being assessed.


What is the Skills Match Report (SMR) and why is it important?

Current immigration instructions require employers seeking to employ an overseas worker for an occupation with an ANZSCO skill level of 4 or 5 are required to obtain a SMR from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD). A SMR details if any New Zealanders are available to work in the role being offered to the migrant worker. One can only be issued to employers who have advertised their vacancy with Work and Income New Zealand, where no suitable New Zealanders have been found.

Will I be able to get an SMR from MSD?

MSD have confirmed that SMR’s are available to employers who engage with MSD to recruit New Zealanders for vacancies. 


What about if the role I want to recruit for is on the skills shortage list?

No New Zealanders are considered available if the job offered is on one of the skills shortage lists, and the applicants meets the qualification and work experience required by the list for that particular job.

What if I want to hire someone under the Skilled Migrant Category?

There is no labour market test for applications under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC).

I need to hire someone but I can’t pay them a full wage like I normally would. How does this impact the work visa application?

To be granted an Essential Skills work visa, the applicant must be paid the market rate for the role. Where you are unable to pay them the normal rate for the role, then you should provide evidence that either the market rate for the role has changed, or reasons why the visa should be granted despite the market rate not being paid. These applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The wage or salary paid must also always be above the minimum wage. The pay offered may also affect the duration of the visa and whether the visa holder is able to support visas for family members.

What if I want to recruit migrant workers in the future – how long will these changes be in place?

Decisions around changes to Immigration Instructions are made by the government. INZ and the wider Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is working through possible options for longer term solutions, and providing advice to the Minister of Immigration. This is a rapidly evolving situation and we’re unable to give a timeframe at this stage, but will keep employers informed and provide more information as decisions are made. In the meantime INZ will continue to process visas according to current Government policy as expressed in immigration instructions.

There might be New Zealanders available somewhere, but people aren’t able to move regions due to COVID-19. Does this mean I still have to hire them over migrant workers?

Employers who are unable to recruit New Zealanders for a vacancy due to COVID-19 restrictions should be able to provide evidence of particular barriers where this is the case.

If I can’t hire the migrant worker I need, I’m not going to be able to keep my business running. What options are available?

Essential Skills work visa applications will be assessed in date order.

Are we able to hire migrants for a short period of time just to see us through, and move to hire New Zealanders later down the track?

Essential Skills work visas are granted for the duration that the employment is offered, for a maximum of period of 12 months, three years, or five years (depending on the skill level of the role). Employment law may determine what are considered sufficient reasons for offering employment for a fixed term and you may wish to seek legal advice on your options.