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AEWV and Work to Residency Changes

Yesterday the Government announced a raft of (unusual) changes to immigration policy. These are summarised below.

Applicants who hold an AEWV, where it is their first AEWV, they applied prior to 21 June 2023, and are paid at or above the median wage, and are on an ANZSCO skill level of 4 or 5 (lower level) will no longer be able to apply for the balance of 5 years. This is unusual for a number of reasons, as it appears to apply retrospectively, and takes away rights that applicants would otherwise have had, whereas INZ typically only apply rules to newer applicants. Applicants meeting the above criteria will only be allowed 2 years on their AEWVs, with the option of applying for an extra year, with a new job token. These applicants will then likely need to spend 12 months outside of New Zealand before being able to apply for another AEWV.

Positions on level 4 and 5 that are not affected are as follows - positions on the green list (it is not mentioned whether this includes also meeting the green list requirements separately, but it is likely), positions paying twice the median wage, and positions covered by the transport and care sector agreements, with a pathway to residency.

The press release further mentions that people working in level 4 or 5 positions who have a pathway to residency (it is implied that this is via the Green List but not explicitly stated) will not be affected. You can find out how long you are allowed to stay here. It is also worth noting that these changes apply to all applications from 7 April 2024 onwards, and to people who applied prior to 21 June 2023 (again - very strange).

The current AEWV process has been ripe for exploitation, by allowing employers to subject job checks with no work experience or qualifications required (some have sold these job tokens illegally). Level 4 and 5 positions, where there is no green list pathway to residency or are not paid twice the median wage, will require at least 3 years' provable work experience or a qualification at at least level 4 or above under the NZQCF (i.e. some people may need to have their overseas qualifications submitted to NZQA for evaluation).

There will also be English language requirements for people working in level 4 and 5 positions, but INZ have noted this does not apply to current applications, and does not apply to partners and children of an AEWV holder.

There will be more strict requirements for employers, similar to the position taken under the old Essential Skills Work Visa system, with a focus on hiring New Zealanders first, including advertising for 21 days rather than 14, and engaging with Work and Income New Zealand to find unemployed Kiwis available to do the work.

New applicants working as bus and truck drivers are no longer entitled to work to residence. The following roles under the Construction and Infrastructure Sector Agreements, and Green List positions, will no longer be added:

Green List:

  • Paving Plant Operator

  • Metal Fabricator

  • Pressure Welder

  • Welder

  • Fitter (General)

  • Fitter and Turner

  • Fitter-Welder

  • Metal Machinist (First Class)

  • Panel Beater

  • Vehicle Painter

  • Road Roller Operator

Construction and Infrastructure Sector Agreement:

  • Driller’s Assistant

  • Earthmoving Labourer

  • Earthmoving Plant Operator general

  • Linemarker

  • Machine Operators not elsewhere classified

  • Mechanic’s Assistant

  • Road Traffic Controller

However, the following positions WILL be added to the Green List:

  • Straight to Residence

  • Aviation Engineer (Avionics, Aeronautical, Aerospace Engineer)

  • Naval Architect (aka Marine Designer)

  • ICT Database and Systems Administrator

  • Mechanical Engineering Technician

  • Aircraft Maintenance Engineer

  • Work to Residence

  • Corrections Officer

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