While current Essential Skills visas will not be extended, the Minister of Immigration has increased the duration of new Essential Skills visas for those who are paid below the median wage from 6 months to 12 months. This change applies to all visas granted on and after 10 June 2021, even in cases where the application was made while the instructions still specified a six month duration.
From 19 July, Essential Skills visa applications will be assessed using the median hourly wage of NZD$27.00, in line with the 2020 Statistics New Zealand median wage. This has been previously signalled and is an increase from the current rate of $25.50.
The stand-down period for Essential Skills visa holders who are paid below the median wage, which would require them to leave New Zealand for 12 months after three years (four years for healthcare workers) before they can apply for another lower-paid Essential Skills visa, will be further postponed until July 2022.
It will continue to be a requirement that Essential Skills visa holders are given and paid for at least 30 hours of work per week. Employers will still need to prove they have been genuinely unsuccessful at attracting a New Zealander into the role before offering it to a temporary migrant.