Farmers can still recruit migrant workers


Last week my colleague Diana Koorts wrote about the difficulty of employing migrant farmworkers, now that farmworkers are no longer included on the Skills Shortage List.

There are other options for farmers who have difficulty recruiting employees in New Zealand.

One option is to become an Accredited Employer. An Accredited Employer is able to recruit migrant workers without first having to prove to Immigration New Zealand (INZ) that they attempted to recruit a suitable worker in New Zealand (known as a labour market test).

There are some important criteria to meet, including satisfying INZ that your business is in a sound financial position, that you have good human resources practices.  Your offer of employment must be for at least two years, and you must pay at least $55,000 per year (based on a 40 hour week).

However, once accredited you can support a candidate’s work visa.  After the employee has been working for you for two years or more then they can also apply for New Zealand residence    

For some farmers, the significant application fee and work involved in applying for Accredited Employer status may mean this option is not worth pursuing.  This option will be best for larger farming operations that employ multiple employees, in longer term and higher paid skilled positions.

Alternatively, for short term and less skilled work, employers can apply for an Approval in Principal.  This is essentially a pre-approval with INZ to recruit a set number of foreign workers.  However, the employer must still satisfy INZ that they cannot recruit NZ workers. 

Some migrants (such as partners of other visa holders or working holiday makers) may hold an open work visa, which allows them to work for any employer in NZ without that employer first undertaking a labour market test.  This may also be an option for farmers looking to recruit migrants.

Finally, if you have a particular worker in mind, or if you want to retain a migrant who already works for you, is to encourage them to apply for a Skilled Migrants Resident Visa.  Together with their offer of skilled employment (dairy and beef cattle and sheep farmers are skilled positions) they will need to have a relevant tertiary qualification and/or relevant work experience to qualify.

The Skilled Migrants Resident Visa takes several months to process, but the candidate can apply for a temporary work visa to allow them to work for you while the resident visa application is being processed.

There is no question that the removal of farmworkers from the Skills Shortage List means it will be more difficult to recruit migrant farmworkers. However, with forward planning and some knowledge of New Zealand’s immigration system, farmers can recruit the skills they need for their business.  

The content of this document is necessarily general and readers should seek specific advice on particular matters and not rely solely on this document. 

If you would like more information on any of the topics in this document, please contact your usual Auld Brewer Mazengarb & McEwen adviser. 

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Sean Maskill