Employing migrant workers has changed

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Legal article from Blackman Spargo Rural Law
Published on 28/07/2022
Farmers have historically employed migrant workers under the Essential Skills Work Visa. However, as of 4 July 2022, the Essential Skills Work Visa has been removed and replaced with the Accredited Employer Work Visa.

If you are planning to employ migrant workers on your farm or orchard, you will need to become an accredited employer. If you currently employ migrant employees and you wish to renew their work visa or hire further migrant employees in the future, you will also need to become accredited.

If you were an accredited employer under a previous migrant employee system, you will need to apply for accreditation under the new system, as previous accreditation is not transferable.

Key requirements to be accredited

As an employer, you need to establish that you are a genuinely viable business. You will also need to meet one of the financial requirements as set out by Immigration New Zealand:

The employer:
  • did not make a loss over the last two years;
  • had positive cash flow each month for the past six consecutive months;
  • has enough capital or external investment for the business to remain viable; or
  • has a credible two-year plan for business viability.

As an accredited employer, you will also be required to continue complying with New Zealand laws for immigration and employment.

The acceptable ‘job check’

New Zealand employers are encouraged to train and upskill New Zealanders before looking abroad for employees. For this reason, an accredited employer must ensure there is no New Zealand candidate suitable for the role before advertising for a migrant worker. You will need to provide evidence you have advertised for two weeks on a national New Zealand job site. Your job advertisement must include the job description, experience required, location, hours of work, and remuneration. If a New Zealander cannot fill the role, you can apply for a ‘job check’ with Immigration New Zealand so the position can be advertised to migrant workers.

For you to hire a migrant worker, the job must be at least 30 hours a week and pay the New Zealand median wage. The employment agreement will need to meet New Zealand employment standards.

If the role is on Immigration New Zealand’s green list of occupations, you will not be required to advertise the role. However, you must complete the remainder of the ‘job check’ to ensure the role meets the minimum requirements.


Before you look to employ a migrant worker, ensure you check:
  • the employer listed on the contract is an accredited employer;
  • the job has been advertised to New Zealanders for the required length of time;
  • you have completed the acceptable ‘job check’;
  • and you comply with New Zealand immigration and employment laws.


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