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Immigration New Zealand turning its eye on employers

Immigration New Zealand turning its eye on employers: What are employers’ obligations under the Immigration Act 2009?

Pursuant to the Immigration Act 2009 (the Immigration Act), employers have an obligation to ensure that all employees who work for them are legally entitled to do so.  It is an offence to employ a person who is not entitled to work in New Zealand or for that particular employer (some visas only entitle a person to work for a specific employer). 

Employers must be able to show they have taken reasonable precautions and exercised due diligence in checking whether foreign nationals are entitled to work for them.  An employer should therefore, maintain on file evidence of an employee’s eligibility to work in New Zealand.  It is no longer sufficient for an employer to merely sight or hold a copy of an employee's IR330 tax code declaration form, New Zealand driver's licence, New Zealand bank account or New Zealand credit card as evidence of a person's entitlement to work, as these are merely proof of identification and do not entitle a person to work in New Zealand. 

An employer should also track the visa expiry dates and changes to conditions of all visa holders.  The obligation to monitor and track visa expiry dates and conditions falls squarely upon employers.  Failure to comply with the entitlement to work requirements in the Immigration Act can result in fines of up to NZ$50,000. 

How is INZ turning its eye on employers?

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has recently indicated that in certain situations they will seek evidence from an employer in regards to their employees’ entitlement to work.  One of those situations is when an employer seeks to apply or renew their accredited status (see below for more information about an accredited status). 

Accredited employer status is granted by INZ to employers who they determine to be “good and responsible” employers.  A “good and responsible” employer is an employer that has human resource (HR) policies of a high standard and complies with the Immigration Act.  INZ requests proof of an employer’s HR policies during the accredited employer application process and expects to see proof that employers are meeting their obligations under the Immigration Act.

As such, it is important for employers to maintain detailed records of its employees' entitlement to work in New Zealand.  This includes employees who are New Zealand citizens and visa holders.  Appropriate documentation of entitlement to work must be collected and the relevant expiry dates and employee departures tracked.  Tracking expiry dates, changes to employment conditions and terminations help ensure that employers are meeting their obligations under the Immigration Act.

What is an accredited status?

As mentioned above, accredited employer status is granted by INZ to employers who they determine to be “good and responsible” employers.

Accredited status is an excellent recruitment and planning tool for businesses that require skilled employees but are unable to find them on-shore.   While gaining accredited status requires lodging a comprehensive application, once approved a job offer from an accredited employer offers an employee the opportunity to apply for a 30-month Work to Residence (“Talent”) visa (assuming they meet all relevant criteria). 

The benefits of becoming an accredited employer are:

  • INZ gives priority in processing to Talent visa applications;
  • Employers do not have to make submissions regarding their recruitment efforts to employ New Zealanders to support each individual work visa application; 
  • The Talent visa policy allows Talent visa holders to apply for residence after working for an accredited employer for 24 months (again, if certain criteria apply); and
  • The nature of the policy assists with the settlement and retention of highly skilled employees for employers.

Our Immigration team is able to assist employees with meeting their obligations under the Immigration Act.  Our team also has extensive experience in providing business immigration advice to employers seeking to bring employees into New Zealand and employers seeking accredited status. 

If you would like to discuss the services of our Immigration team in relation to the employer obligations under the Immigration Act 2009 or any other immigration matter, then please contact the below or your usual EY advisor:

Jennifer De Wald-Harrison
Senior Manager, Tax
jennifer.dewald-harrison@nz.ey.com
Tel: +64 4 499 4888

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