Independent Review of Accredited Employer Work Visa Scheme

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The Public Service Commission conducted a review of the Accredited Employer Work Visa scheme by Immigration NZ due to Covid-19 worker shortages. Criticisms arise for inadequate worker protection and risk prevention.

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The Public Service Commission has conducted a review of the Accredited Employer Work Visa scheme, implemented by Immigration NZ in July 2022 due to worker shortages caused by Covid-19 border closures. The scheme has faced criticism for failing to adequately protect workers and prevent abuse.

The review, led by Jenn Bestwick, examined whether Immigration NZ had appropriately mitigated the risk of migration exploitation. It was found that although the decision to reduce checks to expedite visa processing was reasonable in the circumstances, INZ did not sufficiently assess the potential risks and impacts. Additionally, concerns raised by INZ staff were allegedly not addressed by the leadership.

Deputy Public Service Commissioner Heather Baggott stated that INZ should have taken more proactive measures to minimise the risk of abuse within the work visa system. While acknowledging the necessity for skilled workers during a critical time, she highlighted the failure of INZ to adequately prevent unscrupulous employers from exploiting migrants.

The chief executive of the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, Carolyn Tremain, has committed to implementing necessary changes to enhance the protection of migrant workers. Tremain is focused on aligning with the recommendations outlined in the report to ensure the scheme operates more effectively in safeguarding the rights of incoming migrant workers.

As of 14 August 2023, Immigration NZ had approved 80,576 Accredited Employer Work Visa applications, with 27,892 accredited employers. By 16 February 2024, MBIE had received 2107 complaints against accredited employers. Presently, 174 employers are under investigation, 145 have had their accreditation revoked, 53 have had it suspended, and 48 are being assessed for revocation.

Former Immigration Minister Andrew Little initiated a review of the scheme following allegations of inadequate checks on employers and job processes, brought to light by an internal whistleblower. Little emphasised the importance of addressing these concerns and ensuring the integrity of the work visa system.

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Last modified on 27 February 2024 by
Michael Yoon
Michael has been working as a lawyer in New Zealand since 2006. Over the years, he has successfully helped thousands of clients to get their desired outcome. Clients find Michael knowledgeable, approachable and professional — a trusted expert.

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