The Accredited Employer Scheme was introduced by Immigration New Zealand in an effort to attract skilled migrants to work in industries with labour shortages. However, the scheme has been slow to take off, with only 21 work visas issued since applications opened more than five weeks ago. This is partly due to the fact that only two out of five businesses have reached the stage where a migrant can apply. The other reasons for the slow uptake are unclear, but it is possible that businesses are struggling to meet the strict criteria required for accreditation.
Since the first stage of the visa (AEWV) opened in May, the majority of employer accreditations have been approved - 7883 out of 8723 and employers have applied to immigration to fill almost 30,000 vacancies.
However, there were issues with the second stage, which is the job check stage. Three out of five applications have not been processed – which is far from the pledge that it will be finished within 10 days when it opened on 20 June.
Of 4312 applications, covering 29,348 jobs, 1687 applications (12,403 jobs) have been finalised. Out of those 675 migrants have applied for a visa and three per cent have got one.
Employers might have faced hard-to-navigate online process or inefficient online set-up. There’s a lot technical requirements, but the system doesn't seem to be able to cope. Several employers claim their applications were lost and just disappeared.
Most employers are surprised because before, they just need to complete their employer supplementary form and do their advertising. Having the need for direct contact with INZ was very rare but they have to face a lot of bureaucracy. Case officers at INZ had asked clients to be patient as they are still learning.
For those employers who applied for accreditation back in May, the first two stages have taken more than 11 weeks - only 685 had reached the final hurdle of their migrant worker applying and 21 had visas granted. The next unknown is how long that third stage of the process - the migrant's work visa - will last, given that the job check was only meant to take 10 days.
INZ said it had set up a dedicated freephone line for employers navigating the new system. It is also calling them directly for information they need to change or add at the 'job check' stage of the new visa.
"The AEWV policy is an employer-led work visa approach, which is new to employers and requires different behaviours," said INZ general manager of border and visa operations, Nicola Hogg. "Not only are employers learning how to navigate the new technology and AEWV policy, our staff are also learning how to process this new visa category while helping to educate employers on what is needed.
"As we work our way through assessing job check applications, we have identified some omissions and errors by employers in their applications, which is impacting our ability to process these applications within the 10-day timeframe," said Hogg.
"To assist employers as they adjust to the new AEWV policy, and recognising the current unprecedented labour market conditions, we have been reviewing our initial approach to ensure the AEWV application process is quick and easy so that employers are able to get the workers they need."
"For applications where further information is needed, we are taking a pragmatic approach, which includes outward calling to employers to help speed up the process and get the information more quickly. This will help ensure Job Check applications are assessed and decided faster, while providing employers with an opportunity to remediate any issues with their employment agreements prior to the migrant applying for a work visa."
Whatever the reason, it is clear that the scheme is not yet having the desired effect. With businesses struggling to fill vacant positions, it is hoped that more will take advantage of the scheme in the future.