In a bid to enhance support for migrants facing exploitation, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has implemented changes to the Migrant Exploitation Protection Work Visa (MEPV). Effective from the final week of October, these amendments aim to provide assistance to individuals holding an initial MEPV, enabling them to apply for a further MEPV if they encounter challenges in securing suitable employment.
Lifeline for Exploited Migrant Workers: Key Features of MEPV
The MEPV (Migrant Exploitation Protection Work Visa) is a crucial lifeline for exploited migrant workers in New Zealand. This visa offers several benefits to ensure that these individuals have the necessary support to escape exploitative situations and rebuild their lives.
Protection from Exploitation: The MEPV empowers migrant workers to leave their exploitative employers without jeopardising their immigration status. This provides them with the freedom and security to seek alternative employment without fear of deportation or visa issues.
Temporary Stay and Work Authorization: The MEPV grants exploited migrant workers a temporary stay of up to six months in New Zealand. During this period, they are authorised to work for any employer anywhere in the country, enabling them to secure alternative employment and regain financial stability.
High-Priority Processing: Recognizing the urgency of addressing migrant exploitation cases, the MEPV application is processed with high priority. This ensures that exploited workers receive the necessary support and protection promptly.
Fee-Free Service: The MEPV application is entirely free of charge, eliminating any financial barriers for exploited migrant workers seeking assistance. This reflects the government's commitment to providing accessible support to those in vulnerable situations.
Eligibility Based on Exploitation Assessment: To qualify for the MEPV, individuals must have their exploitation report assessed by Employment New Zealand. This ensures that the visa is granted only to those who have genuinely experienced exploitation and require protection.
Timely Application: To avoid additional fees or documentation requirements, the MEPV application must be submitted within one month of receiving the Exploitation Assessment letter. This encourages prompt action to secure the necessary support.
Qualification Criteria and Application Process for MEPV
The Migrant Exploitation Protection Work Visa (MEPV) in New Zealand offers support to migrants facing exploitation, allowing them to apply for further protection. The qualification criteria involve an assessment of exploitation reports and timely MEPV applications.
Qualification Criteria for MEPV
Genuine Efforts to Seek Employment: Applicants must actively seek employment during their initial MEPV period to demonstrate their commitment to finding suitable work. This includes engaging in job search activities, applying for relevant positions, and maintaining records of these efforts.
Alignment with Original Work Visa: The roles sought during the MEPV period should align with the specifications of the applicant's original work visa. This ensures that they are pursuing employment opportunities within their skills and experience.
Pay Rate Requirements: The pay rate for the roles sought during the MEPV period must meet the minimum requirements of the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV). This safeguards against exploitative employment practices and ensures that applicants receive fair compensation.
Application Process for MEPV
Gather Evidence of Employment Efforts: Applicants should compile evidence of their efforts to seek employment during their initial MEPV period. This may include correspondence with potential employers, screenshots of job search activities, or job advertisements confirming application submissions.
Prepare Additional Documentation: In addition to the evidence of employment efforts, applicants should prepare any other relevant documentation, such as their passport, a valid visa, and the Exploitation Assessment letter from Employment New Zealand.
Submit Application Within One Month: To avoid additional fees or documentation requirements, the MEPV application should be submitted within one month of receiving the Exploitation Assessment letter. This ensures timely processing and support.
Attend Interview if Required: In some cases, applicants may be invited to attend an interview to provide further information or clarify aspects of their application.
Seek Assistance if Needed: If applicants encounter difficulties during the application process or require additional support, they should reach out to Migrant Support Services or the New Zealand Visas and Immigration (INZ) for assistance.
Maintain Records: Applicants are encouraged to maintain records of their employment search activities and any correspondence with potential employers or relevant authorities. This documentation can be crucial in supporting their MEPV application.
Evidentiary Requirements for Further MEPV Application
Applicants must provide comprehensive evidence to demonstrate their genuine efforts to seek employment during their initial MEPV period. This evidence is crucial for assessing their continued eligibility for support and protection under the MEPV program.
Key Evidence to Include:
Detailed Correspondence with Potential Employers
Copies of emails, letters, or job application forms exchanged with potential employers
Dates of interaction, specific roles applied for, and offered pay rates should be clearly indicated
Dates of Correspondence or Job Applications
Maintain a chronological record of dates engaged in job search activities or submitted applications
Include correspondence dates, job application timestamps, or screenshots of job search platforms showing application submissions
Details of Offered Roles
Provide detailed descriptions of the roles applied for during the MEPV period
Include job titles, responsibilities, and required qualifications to demonstrate relevance to the work visa and commitment to finding suitable employment
Associated Pay Rates
Provide evidence of the pay rates offered for the roles applied for
Include copies of job advertisements, salary scales, or correspondence with potential employers
Additional Supporting Documentation
Provide any other relevant documentation that supports job search efforts
Attendance records from job fairs or seminars, certificates of completion from job search workshops, or references from previous employers
Equal Entitlements for Migrant Workers
New Zealand is committed to ensuring that all workers, regardless of their immigration status, enjoy the same minimum rights and protections. This commitment is reflected in the Employment Relations Act 2000, which applies equally to migrant workers and New Zealand citizens and residents.
Entitlements Guaranteed to Migrant Workers
Holidays: Migrant workers are entitled to four weeks of annual holidays after 12 months of continuous employment. They are also entitled to public holidays paid at their normal rate of pay.
Leave: Migrant workers are entitled to sick leave, parental leave, and bereavement leave in the same way as New Zealand citizens and residents. The amount of leave they are entitled to depends on their length of service.
Work Breaks: Migrant workers are entitled to regular work breaks, including a rest break every two hours and a lunch break of at least 30 minutes.
Wages: Migrant workers must be paid at least the minimum wage, which is currently $22.10 per hour. They are also entitled to overtime pay, penalty rates, and other allowances as specified in their employment agreement.
Written Employment Agreements: Migrant workers must have a written employment agreement that sets out their terms and conditions of employment, including their job description, pay rate, hours of work, and entitlement to leave and holidays.
What are the key changes in New Zealand's refined migrant work visa rules?
The refined migrant work visa rules in New Zealand encompass several key changes, including the elimination of 90-day trial periods, adjustments to AEWV Job Check applications, updates to employer accreditation procedures, and a significant increase in the labour hire employment threshold to 35%.
When do the changes to trial periods come into effect for accredited employers?
Effective from October 29, 2023, accredited employers in New Zealand are no longer allowed to use 90-day trial periods in employment agreements for individuals hired through the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) category.
How do the changes impact AEWV Job Check applications?
Post October 29, 2023, AEWV Job Check applications under assessment will be declined if they include an employment agreement with a trial period, irrespective of the submission date. Exceptions include applications based on previously approved Job Checks or migrants who applied before the specified date.
What technical updates have been made to employer accreditation procedures?
Technical updates have been introduced to clarify the process of suspending or revoking an employer's accreditation under the AEWV. Effective October 29, 2023, an employer's accreditation can be suspended during active verification of compliance with immigration, employment, and business standards.
What is the new labour hire employment threshold, and when does it take effect?
As of November 27, 2023, accredited employers involved in labour hire (triangular) employment, specifically placing migrants in certain construction occupations, must ensure that at least 35% of their labour hire workforce comprises New Zealand citizens and residents in full-time employment.
Do existing employers meeting the previous 15% threshold lose accreditation?
Existing employers who meet the previous 15% threshold will retain their accreditation. However, they must adhere to the new 35% threshold when undergoing subsequent AEWV Job Checks, providing a transitional period for adjustments.
What is the overall objective of these refinements to migrant work visa rules?
The refinements aim to enhance fairness, transparency, and alignment with evolving economic needs in New Zealand's immigration framework. These changes foster a more balanced and inclusive workforce while maintaining opportunities for skilled migrant workers.