Concern new skilled migrant visa will add costs for businesses

Source: 1News

There's concern that a new visa to get skilled migrants into New Zealand will be too complex and costly for businesses.

From July, the Accredited Employer Work Visa will be how most of these skilled staff enter the country. It's a major overhaul of the system that combines six previous visas in an effort to simplify things.

It's a change that's been in the works for years and is part of an effort to prevent the exploitation of migrants.

But immigration lawyer Nick Mason says the new visa has the potential to make it more difficult for businesses to actually get staff into the country at a time when they're desperate.

"I think it will be harder. Mainly they have to produce a whole lot of documentation. For smaller employers that's not going to be readily available."

The biggest change is that previously, the employee wanting to come to New Zealand did the bulk of the work in terms of applying for the visa. Now that has shifted to the employer.

There are three steps businesses will have to go through. They'll need to apply to be accredited, prove a Kiwi can't do the job and then there's the actual application process.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Ruth Isaac says the new system is designed to be easier. "Where you have genuinely looked to fill your role from within New Zealand it should be pretty easy for employers to hire migrants over the median wage where they cannot find New Zealanders."

The new system means officials can take away a business' accreditation too. "That will enable us to ensure that only good employers are able to hire migrants," Isaac said.

But Hospitality New Zealand's Julie White says it's not necessary. "I think they've gone way too far and they've created policy for a small cohort of people that behave badly."

White says the new visa will be useful in the future, but right now it will make it harder for struggling businesses.

"I think under the [Accredited Employer Work Visa] it's going to add more compliance and more costs."

Applying to be an accredited employer will cost $740, then $610 to do the job check and a further $540 for the visa application.

Federated Farmers' Chris Lewis doesn't think it's necessary.

"It's just another tick box exercise and more money going out from hard-working New Zealanders to give to a government agency," he said.

Applications to be an accredited employer open at the end of May and job checks can begin from July. Meanwhile, around 140,000 applications are expected for residential visas.

Nick Mason says he has concerns about Immigration New Zealand's capacity to cope with the applications in a timely manner.

"At last count there were around 32,000 employers in New Zealand who employed migrants. If they had 32,000 applications for accreditation, they're really going to struggle," he said.

Isaac says INZ is planning ahead to ensure it can cope, including putting as much online as possible.

"We are bringing more resources on board with a new processing office being opened in Christchurch as well. We are looking at what we can do to clear the decks."