Changes to work rights for partners of work visa holders in New Zealand

 In Employer Accreditation

Moving to a new country can be really tough, and the recent changes to work rights for partners of work visa holders in New Zealand could make things even more complicated. These changes came into effect on May 31, 2023, and impact both employers and people who have visas to work in New Zealand.

New work visa conditions

The recent policy changes have tightened the work rights for partners of Accredited Employer Work Visas (AEWV) and Essential Skills Work Visa (ESWV) holders. Before June 2023, partners of people with work visas could work in any job and for any employer in New Zealand. But now, they can only work for employers who have been approved by the government, accredited employers, and the job they do must pay at least the minimum wage of $29.66 per hour.

Additionally, partners on AEWV visas will no longer have the option of self-employment, which was previously allowed under open work visas. They can’t start their own businesses while in New Zealand on this visa.

Understanding the exceptions

While the changes affect a significant portion of partners of work visa holders, there are exceptions to these new requirements. For example, partners of students, partners of New Zealand citizens or residents, and partners of people paid twice the median wage or working in jobs on the Green List are still allowed to work in any job. The roles on the Green List are professions where migrants can apply for residence straight away if they work within that profession, or after completing two years of work in NZ.

If a person already has a Partner Work Visa, they don’t need to worry about these new rules. Their visa will still be valid, and they won’t lose their right to work. The same goes for people who applied for a Partner Work Visa before May 31, 2023.

However, AEWV holders who are covered by a Sector Agreement and paid below the median wage are not eligible to support a partner work visa. ESWV holders paid below the median wage or lower skilled (if the visa application was made before 27 July 2020) are also not eligible to support a partner.
If these AEWV holders get a pay rise that brings their salary up to at least the median wage, they may then be able to support their partner for a work visa.

Healthcare eligibility

Partners who are no longer eligible for a work visa will also lose eligibility for publicly funded healthcare. To access publicly funded health services, a migrant must hold a work visa of two years or more or have been lawfully in New Zealand for two years or more while holding a work visa.

Addressing concerns and confusion

The recent changes to partner work rights have introduced additional complexity to the visa process, potentially leading to confusion. They might make it harder for employers to hire partners of work visa holders, and it can also make the job search more complicated for partners who want to move to New Zealand.

Employers and recruiters who were previously hiring ‘partner’ candidates will no longer be able to do so without checking the ‘conditions’ of their work visa first.

Partners must now ensure that the job they wish to apply for meets the minimum hourly wage requirement and is with an accredited employer. This limits the job market for partners planning to move to New Zealand, adding complication to the job hunt.

How to get help with the AEWV

Luckily, Immigration New Zealand has a tool to help job seekers find accredited employers, which makes things a bit easier. Employers can also include their accreditation status in job advertisements to let people know they are eligible for partner visas.

We recommend partners seeking employment utilise the tool Immigration New Zealand has recently launched. It allows job seekers to search for accredited employers. This tool will simplify the process by providing quick verification of an employer’s accreditation status.

Employers should consider including their accreditation status in job advertisements to make it clear that they are eligible for partner visas.

If you are concerned about the new partner work rights or need assistance, our team at IDESI LEGAL is here to help. We have extensive experience in immigration law and can provide the guidance and support you need.

If you can’t make it to our Wellington office to see us personally, we can connect with you online and work with you using video calls. Call us on 04 461 6018 to set up a meeting. We can help clarify the potential impact on employers and visa holders, provide advice tailored to individual circumstances, and help streamline the visa application process for employers and visa holders alike. IDESI LEGAL has successfully represented NZ migrants and employers through all types of visa application processes.

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