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The Government has approved changes to Immigration Instructions to make it easier to recruit and retain migrant workers for the Canterbury rebuild.

Modelling carried out by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment suggests that an additional 5,000 construction workers will be needed between December 2014 and the peak of the rebuild in December 2016.


Although expat New Zealanders and Australians will be able to meet some of this demand for labour the Government recognises that migrant workers will also play an important role.


Three changes have been made to streamline visa processes and increase labour market flexibility in Canterbury, while reducing the incidence of exploitation of migrant workers.


The maximum duration of Essential Skills visas for lower-skilled occupations in Canterbury will be extended from one year to three years for applications received between July 2015 and December 2016.


The change means that employers who want to retain a good lower-skilled migrant worker will no longer have to go through the uncertainty of applying annually to renew their visa.


Holders of Essential Skills work visas granted after 1 July 2015 working in Canterbury will now be allowed to change employers (within the same occupation) without having to go through the process of applying for a Variation of Conditions (VOC) on their visa. This will also improve flexibility by enabling migrant workers to move between jobs more easily.


Holders of current Essential Skills work visas will be able to apply for a VOC to remove the condition stating the employer on their visa – meaning that they will not have to apply for a VOC to change employer in future.


The third change involves the introduction of an accreditation scheme for labour hire companies that recruit and employ migrant workers on Essential Skills work visas. Labour hire companies that employ workers in the construction sector in Canterbury must obtain accreditation by 1 January 2016.

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Labour hire companies elsewhere and in other sectors can also benefit from becoming accredited. Lower skilled workers employed by accredited labour hire companies may be eligible for an Essential Skills work visa of up to three years (depending on the job offer duration), increasing from the existing one year maximum.


Companies seeking accreditation will have to prove they have a demonstrable commitment to training and employing New Zealanders and good workplace practices.


Remember, if you have received a letter from INZ about your visa application or think your visa may be declined or expire soon – the time to act is NOW. Call us on 0800 967 584 to you’re your FREE consultation. Our service is strictly confidential and we can guide you to take the right steps to avoid mistakes and put forward a strong case.

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Kind regards,

Jig Patel