The hands of a legislator uses a rubber stamp on some paperwork

The importance of immigration compliance for New Zealand employers

Attracting and retaining international talent is a significant advantage for many New Zealand employers. 

However, navigating the legal requirements of immigration law requires a thorough understanding of compliance obligations when hiring overseas workers. In New Zealand, this involves adhering to specific visa regulations and employment standards designed to protect migrant workers. Understanding these aspects is crucial for employers to maintain a compliant, ethical, and successful workplace. 

In this article, we’ll explore the key legal responsibilities for employers, highlight the potential risks of non-compliance, and emphasise the importance of staying informed to protect your business from legal issues.  

Understanding the legal landscape

The Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) introduced by Immigration New Zealand is designed to make it easier for New Zealand employers to hire overseas talent, and for overseas talent to work in New Zealand to overcome skill shortages.  

First, employers need to get accredited. This is to ensure that the business meets the standards required to effectively support migrant talent in the workforce. These standards relate to: 

  • Financial stability
  • Ethical workplace practices
  • Following immigration and employment laws

The goal of these regulations is to protect the rights and well-being of migrant workers, ensuring that they are treated fairly and have the same employment rights and protections as New Zealand workers.

But things changed on April 7 of 2024. There are now more requirements at the accreditation and Job Check stages, and during the accreditation period.

It’s crucial for employers to understand these requirements. Failure to comply can lead to serious and costly consequences, ranging from financial penalties to reputational damage, and, in the worst-case scenario, legal action against the company.

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The core objective of these regulations is to protect the rights and well-being of migrant workers, ensuring that they are treated fairly and have the same employment rights and protections as New Zealand workers.

The risks of non-compliance

Non-compliance can have serious consequences. Besides exposing your organisation to legal liabilities, failure to meet your obligations under the AEWV also puts migrant employees at risk.

Consequences can include:

  • Losing your accredited status
  • A stand-down period
  • Infringement notices and fees
  • Prosecution and a permanent ban from supporting visas for migrant workers.

Beyond this, businesses that don’t comply with immigration laws could damage their reputation, making it harder to attract both local and international talent.

The stakes are high, and they show the importance of meeting your obligations – not just as a requirement, but as part of ethical business practice.

Navigating compliance with informed knowledge

To ensure compliance, employers need to stay informed and proactive.

This means doing the necessary research to understand immigration laws and the specific visa conditions of your migrant employees. It’s not a one-and-done sort of thing, but rather a long-term commitment to staying on top of your obligations. This brings us to the golden rule of compliance:

It’ll always be an ongoing effort to keep up with changes in laws and policies.

And that’s where we can help – even if you’re not one of our clients. Resources like the website you’re visiting right now offer valuable guidance for employers navigating the rules and regulations around accreditation.

Working with immigration advisers can also provide businesses with specialised insight into best practices for managing work visa applications and renewals, ensuring that all the paperwork is in order, and legal requirements are met. These advisers help reduce risks and streamline the process of hiring and retaining international talent.

Best practices for maintaining compliance

To stay compliant with immigration laws, follow these best practices:

Stay updated

Regularly review updates from Immigration New Zealand and consult with professional immigration advisers to stay informed about any changes in the law that might affect your obligations as an employer.

Employee documentation

Maintain accurate and up-to-date records of all immigration documents for your employees. This includes keeping track of visa expiration dates and ensuring that employees have the right to work in New Zealand.

Educate your team

Ensure that your HR team and managers are well-informed about the implications of immigration law and the specific requirements for compliance. This shared knowledge base can help prevent accidental breaches.

Engage with accredited advisers

Professional immigration advisers play a valuable role in guiding employers through the accreditation process and any subsequent visa applications for prospective employees.

By following these practices, employers can significantly reduce the risk of non-compliance and create a work environment that is both inclusive and legally compliant.

The benefits of staying informed

To protect their businesses from the risks associated with non-compliance, it’s essential for New Zealand employers to stay informed about current immigration laws and changes to visa requirements. By doing so, they can ensure that their employment practices are always aligned with the latest legal standards, thus safeguarding their operations against potential legal issues.

Ensuring success through compliance

For New Zealand employers looking to strengthen their workforce with migrant talent, understanding and following immigration requirements is not a nice-to-have - it's essential.

By ensuring compliance with these laws, businesses not only avoid the significant risks associated with non-compliance but also position themselves as attractive destinations for top international talent.

Laws and regulations are continually evolving, so staying informed and seeking expert advice when necessary is key to successfully navigating the challenges of immigration compliance.

Employers who focus on this aspect of their operations can enjoy the benefits of a diverse and dynamic workforce, free from the pitfalls of legal penalties and reputational damage.

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