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An immigration adviser says upcoming changes may create a heavy financial burden for some Queenstown employers.
Planned for implementation in 2021, Immigration New Zealand intends to remove the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupation (ANZSCO) essential skills visa process, and introduce an accreditation system for employers who hire migrant workers.
Immigration policy manager Sian Roguski said as a low labour supply region, migrants with job offers in Otago would be eligible for visas up to 36 months in length, whether or not they were paid above the national median wage.
"Overall, these settings are more facilitative than the current settings for Queenstown."
However, immigration adviser Martin Gulich, of Queenstown, said removing the ANZSCO ratings would affect Queenstown employers wanting to keep anyone for more than three years.
At present, visas were classified as low, medium or high-skilled, based on the wages offered and the ANZSCO rating — from 1, the lowest, up to 5.
"When we’re talking about 1, 2 or 3, we’re talking about your cooks, your chefs, your hospitality managers, your tradespeople."
As a result of proposed changes, Immigration NZ would instead look only at wages — anyone paid below $25.50 an hour would be subject to a 12-month stand down after a 36-month visa.
Mr Gulich said that was "massive".
"It basically means if you want to keep employees for more than three years you’re going to have to pay them $25.50 an hour," Mr Gulich said.
"It’s going to be really, really tough for Queenstown."
Mr Gulich said once an employer was accredited there would be one annual fee per employer, or company, who hired migrants, the amount of which would depend on how many migrants they hired in a year.
Ms Roguski said the specific level of fees would not be finalised until the detailed design was more certain because they would be based on "recovering actual costs".
Mr Gulich said a standard accreditation, for up to five migrants a year, would likely cost about $600 per annum, and a "premium" accreditation, for more than five, was likely to cost about $2000, he said.
"But, if you’ve got these big hospitality groups, that have maybe six company names under one group they would, in theory, need each individual company name accredited."
The accreditation would vet the employer first before an employee applied for a visa — the cost of which was likely to decrease from $500 to about $300.
Hospitality Association of New Zealand Queenstown president Chris Buckley said he understood the plans were designed to be easier and ‘‘stop exploitation’’, but questioned how the changes would achieve that.
"I don't know if it'll be better or worse or if it's just more paperwork for everyone."