Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Job-check process frustrates farmers

Neal Wallace
New regimen stretches visa process to 3-4 months.
A dairy farmer says he faces at least a four-month process seeking an Immigration NZ renewal of a working visa for an experienced European dairy farmworker he currently employs.
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It is quicker and easier to employ someone visiting New Zealand on a holiday visa than it currently is to renew a working visa for a farm worker, a dairy farmer says.

The dairy farmer, who Farmers Weekly agreed not to name, said he faces at least a four-month process seeking an Immigration NZ renewal of a working visa for an experienced European dairy farmworker he currently employs.

The farmer is seeking an Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) for the staff member, who has worked in NZ for a year and been in his employ for five months.

His visa expires at the end of this month.

To employ a migrant worker under the AEWV scheme, the employer must first be accredited, then complete a job check to ensure that there are no suitable New Zealanders it could hire and train, before the role is offered to someone from overseas.

The final step is the visa application. 

Immigration NZ (INZ) said processing a visa application will take six weeks – and when it comes to assessing whether there are available local candidates with the right skills for the position, or job checking, it recommends allowing another six weeks.

Prior to a tightening of the AEWV process, visa renewal took 10 working days.

The farmer said he has spent three months on the job-checking process alone.

Previously that check was done through candidates on the books of Work and Income NZ.

Now prospective employers have to advertise through employment sites.

In the farmer’s case his advertisement attracted 160 applicants, most unsuited and many from overseas or visiting on holiday or student visas.

After three months of assessing the applicants, just three were deemed potentially suitable.

One did not answer their phone, another wanted on-farm accommodation, which was not available, and the third was deemed inappropriate, requiring him to source references from the candidate’s former employers.

The farmers said the job check disproportionately extends the process.

INZ admits its processing times have increased following changes to the AEWV scheme.

The policy is designed to ensure New Zealanders are first in line for jobs and is intended to avoid employers exploiting migrants.

To achieve this, the spokesperson said, changes were made to the AEWV applications process to require more information and evidence from employers.

That ensures job vacancies are current and genuine and that employers can support the migrants they plan to hire.

“There are currently increasing wait times at the job-check stage.

“The first two stages were introduced with a high trust model and consequently had a quicker turnaround time.

“We have moved more staff onto processing applications under the AEWV gateways and expect improvements in wait times over the next few months as a result.”

Federated Farmers dairy section chair Richard McIntyre has met with INZ, which is aware that prospective employers are frustrated.

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