Connecticut, US

Mar 04 2019

Update on Proposed Work Visa Rule Changes

New Zealand

The situation

Key proposals have been brought forth for discussion during the public consultation period on proposed changes to employer-assisted temporary work visas in New Zealand. The consultation period ends March 18, 2019.

A closer look

The following key changes to the temporary work visa system are under discussion:

  • New assessment framework for temporary work visas. The government has proposed to replace the following six temporary work visa categories with a simplified new framework, to be described further in later legislation:
    • Essential Skills including the Essential Skills in Demand Lists (ESID)
    • Approval-in-Principle
    • Talent (Accredited Employer)
    • Work to Residence – Long-term Skill Shortage List occupation
    • Silver Fern (Practical Experience)
    • Silver Fern (Job Search)
  • The new framework would be employer-led, rather than migrant-led, and it would be based on sectoral and regional differences in the labour market, as opposed to the current system, which is complex and based more on individual skill categories.
  • Replacement of Essential Skills in Demand Lists with Regional Skills Shortage Lists. The proposed change is expected to better reflect regional skill shortages and provide more opportunities for temporary migrants by region.
  • Introduction of sector agreements. This is intended to ensure that longer-term structural issues are addressed so that specific industries do not become reliant on migrant labour at the risk of shutting out opportunities to local workers.
  • Better alignment of the immigration, welfare and education systems. The need for better collaboration is a key factor in increasing the employment of local workers and delivering better labour market outcomes for New Zealand.



  • More streamlined and transparent process for work visa applications. The new framework would reduce the number of pathways for employer-assisted temporary work visas into enhanced framework that includes employer, job and migrant checks. 
  • Stricter eligibility requirements for work visa applicants. The changes would restrict requirements for work visa applicants as the system would be fine-tuned to ensure that work visas are better matched to genuine and high-skill needs.
  • More incentives to hire local workers. Plans to rebalance the system would provide more incentive and support for businesses to employ more local workers over foreign nationals.
  • Individualized assessments. Employers intending to sponsor foreign nationals for work visas in New Zealand should check with an immigration specialist to understand how these proposed changes may affect them, since the impact is projected to vary widely based on industry and region.


Looking ahead

  • Next steps of legislation. The government is set to consider the consultation submissions between March and April 2019 and will decide on the final proposals by mid-2019. Some changes related to the highly-paid threshold and the arrangements impacting lower-skilled workers would be implemented in August 2019, while the first two sectoral agreements would be negotiated in the second half of 2019 and operational in early 2020. The gateway framework would be fully implemented between April and June 2020. Labour market test improvements and regional differentiation could be implemented earlier depending on consultation and final decisions. Fragomen will continue to monitor the situation and provide further updates as needed.
  • Indications of proposal. While the proposals are meant to improve the current visa system, they indicate a more restrictive, locally-focused attitude toward immigration. This is in line with the Minister of Immigration’s intention to taking a regional and industry-based approach to handle the increased flows of migration to New Zealand.


This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to

LIA 201500430