Posted by Dew James on March 18 2020 in News

In late 2019, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) announced sweeping changes to its employer-assisted work visa offerings: one category will replace six[1] discrete work visa categories. The changes are expected to take effect sometime in the beginning of 2021. The application process will shift from a predominantly employee-led to employer-led model. Any employer wanting to employ migrant workers (be it one or 100) will be required to first obtain accreditation status.

As an interim measure, INZ indicated that other changes would be made to some of the existing six work visa categories. One such change will be to the assessment criteria of the Essential Skills Work Visa (ESWV) category. This category is designed to enable a migrant worker with a job offer from a New Zealand employer to apply directly to INZ for a work visa which entitles them to work exclusively for that business.

INZ currently relies on the Australia New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) and an applicant’s pay rate to determine the skill level of their job offer. The designated skill level in turn determines the conditions of the ESWV.

Below is a summary of the changes to the ESWV category set to take place “from mid-2020”[2] onwards:


  1. ANZSCO will no longer be used to determine the skill level of an applicant’s job. INZ will instead rely solely on an applicant’s pay rate to do so:
    1. “high skilled” – if an applicant is paid at or above the New Zealand median wage; and
    2. “low skilled” – if an applicant is paid below the New Zealand median wage.


  1. The median wage rate will likely be the sole determiner of the following factors[3]:
    1. The need for employers to obtain a Skills Match Report from WINZ;
    2. The duration of an applicant’s visa;
    3. Applicability of a stand period; and
    4. Applicant’s ability to support a partner and / or child(ren) to come to or continue living in New Zealand (if they are already here).


However, ANZSCO will not be disposed of entirely. INZ will continue using this classification system to check that an applicant’s pay is at market rate for their job type, and to determine whether s/he is suitably qualified for that role. It remains to be seen if and how ANZSCO will be utilised in the new, 2021 regime.

Reading between the lines of INZ’s announcement and the proposal to remove the mid-skill band, applicants not wanting to be classified as “low skilled” will likely need to earn at least $25.50[4] per hour, being the current median wage rate. Under the current policy, an applicant need only earn $21.68[5] per hour to be classified as “mid skilled” and be entitled to the benefits attached to that status. Achieving the significantly higher wage rate will likely be a real challenge for many migrant workers.

Without any specific detail from INZ regarding the proposed new policy, it is difficult to know the full extent of the likely impact the changes will have on applicants, their families, and employers. You can read the information currently available on INZ’s website, here.

We will update you as soon as INZ releases more information.

If you would like more information regarding the above, or have any questions, please contact us.


Dew James | Solicitor
t +64 9 300 8772 |

Kalev Crossland | Partner
t +64 9 300 8755 |

Shelley Eden | Partner
t + 64 9 300 8756 | 




[1]           This includes the Essential Skills Work Visa, Essential Skills Work Visa – approval in principal, Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa, Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa, Silver Fern Job Search Visa, and the Silver Fern Practical Experience Visa.

[2]           INZ has not advised when exactly these changes will be rolled out, but we will provide an update as soon as this information is available.

[3]           Given that INZ has not released any detail of the proposed new policy, we have listed those factors which are currently determined using ANZSCO and which we assume will be determined by pay rate once that change occurs.

[4]           On 24 February 2020, the median wage rate increased from increased from $25 p/h to $25.50 p/h.

[5]           On 24 February 2020, the mid skill wage rate increased from $21.25 p/h to $21.68 p/h.

This paper gives a general overview of the topics covered and is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice.