The Government has agreed to defer the stand down requirement for lower skilled critical healthcare workers on Essential Skills work visas. This includes visa applications made after 27 July 2020 that are paid below the median wage.
Immigration instructions now allow eligible healthcare workers to hold Essential Skills visas for four rather than three years before they are required to stand down for 12 months.
This is to help maintain existing health workforces and minimise disruption to New Zealand’s COVID-19 public health response.
This decision only applies to healthcare and support workers who were employed in the following occupations and sectors on 23 March 2020:
Ø Medical Doctors
Ø Technical and support staff working in:
· Cardiology Blood Service
· Nuclear medicine
· Hyperbaric medicine
· Research staff
Note that this is not a visa extension. This is a one-off change to support the health system’s response to COVID-19. Workers will need to apply for further Essential Skills work visas before their current visa expires.
All new Essential Skills work visa applications lodged from 10 July 2020 for jobs paying below the median wage (currently $25.50 an hour) have a duration of 6 months. More information is on our website.
Q: What is a ‘stand down’ period?
A: People who have held lower-skilled Essential Skills work visas for three years need to leave NZ for 12 months before they can be granted a further Essential Skills work visa, based on employment paid below the median wage – this is called the ‘stand down’ period.
Q: Who does it apply to?
A: The stand down period requirement applies to those Essential Skills visa holders who were assessed as “lower skilled” prior to 27 July 2020 and who have been assessed as “paid below the median wage” for visa applications made on or after 27 July 2020.
The deferral of the stand down period requirement applies to people who were employed in certain healthcare occupations in NZ on 23 March 2020.
Q: Why wasn’t the deferral of the stand down period requirement implemented immediately post Cabinet decision of 23 March 2020?
A: Our records show that affected healthcare workers would not face the stand down period until October 2020.
Q: What happens when I need to apply for a further Essential Skills work visa (post 6 month visa extension)?
A: When a worker applies for their further Essential Skills work visa to undertake employment that is “paid below the median wage”, they will need to meet the standard requirements for that visa, including meeting any labour market test requirements. In accordance with immigration instructions which are in effect until 10 January 2022, the visa granted will be for 6 months duration, or for a shorter duration if they are subject to the stand-down
Q: I held a lower-skilled Essential Skills work visa, but I have changed the job and my wage is now above $25.50. Am I still subject to the stand down period requirement?
Once you have received a work visa based on employment that pays at or above $25.50, for the length of that visa you are no longer subject to the stand down period requirement.
Q: Does the stand down period apply regardless of when the applicant received a visa?
A: The stand down period will apply to those who received an Essential Skills work visa based on “lower skilled” and/or employment “paid below the median wage” after August 2017.
Q: How do I know that I am subject to the stand down period requirement? Do I receive an email from INZ?
A: You or your representative can contact INZ to find out how much longer you can hold lower-skilled Essential Skills work visas for.
Q: I was working in the health sector on 23 March 2020, then I have changed my job and am currently working in the different sector that is not listed above. Does the deferral of the stand down period still apply to me?
A: No. The deferral of the stand down period only applies to those healthcare workers who were employed in the sector on 23 March 2020, and continue to be employed in a listed healthcare occupation or healthcare sector.
Q: I am working in the disability care sector. Does this change apply to me?
A: The change will only apply to you if you can demonstrate in your Essential Skills visa application that you are employed in one of the listed healthcare occupations, or that you are employed in one of the listed healthcare sectors.