Immigration one of top three issues for employers – mitigate the stress

Tax Watch: Edition 1, 2014

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The Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) recently published its annual End of Year Employment Round up Survey.  The 2013 results show that immigration is one of the top three issues that concern employers.

Given the importance of immigration issues and the need for compliance within businesses, employers should be aware of key changes in immigration policy (such as those included in the recently released Immigration Amendment Bill (No 2)).

Our past Tax Watch articles have highlighted that the Immigration Act 2009 (the Immigration Act) puts the onus on employers to ensure that all employees have the right to work for them. In order to ensure employers adhere to these requirements, a robust identification and tracking system should be maintained.  The changes proposed by the recent bill include providing immigration officers with extended powers to effectively enforce the principal Immigration Act.

The proposed extension of powers would provide an immigration officer with increased authority to enter and search an employer’s premises in order to look for unlawful workers, check documents and interview employees to ascertain whether there is compliance with the Immigration Act. Strong penalties exist for employers who are found to be non-compliant with the Immigration Act, including but not limited to significant fines and potential deportation for those employers who are not New Zealand citizens, including those that hold New Zealand residence visas.

Implications for employers

Employers should be conscious of their compliance with the Immigration Act for both long-term employees and short term business visitors. In the month of January 2014, 16,096 business visitors entered New Zealand.  Business travellers and employers should be aware that under the business visitor instructions, the holder of a Business Visitors visa is not permitted to undertake employment during their stay in New Zealand.

Activities not considered to be undertaking employment for the purposes of New Zealand immigration are very narrow and should be utilised with caution.  The Amendment Bill reinforces the matter with changes to border security and the way information on passenger names is recorded and maintained.  The purpose of the change is to improve the identification of travellers who may pose a risk or require further intervention and to improve airline compliance.

Increased border security and the authority of immigration officers, means employers should be conscious of not only their compliance and risk approach to immigration but also their strategy and planning. 

Key questions to focus on include:

  • Does your business have an Immigration strategy or process in place?
  • As an employer, do you maintain a detailed identification and tracking system for all members of staff and their New Zealand immigration status including New Zealand citizens and residence class visa holders?
  • As an employer, are you monitoring changes in your employees’ employment terms against the conditions of their visas (e.g., their job title, description or location of employment)?

If you would like to discuss any of the above or other immigration issues, please contact our immigration advisor:

Jennifer De-Wald Harrison
Associate Director, Immigration

Tel: +64 4 499 4888