Addressing temporary migrant worker exploitation

New measures have come into force on 1 July 2021 to better protect migrants from exploitation.

The new measures

The changes are part of a wider Government initiative to combat all forms exploitation supported by $50m in funding over four years.

The new measures include:

  • A new visa to support migrants to leave exploitative situations quickly and remain lawfully in New Zealand. This visa will be valid for up to six months.
  • A new dedicated 0800 number and web form to make it easier to report migrant worker exploitation.

The primary focus of these new initiatives is to make it easier for migrant workers to report exploitation and ensure migrants are able to leave exploitative situations as quickly as possible.

The changes will be supported by a substantial increase in funding for compliance and enforcement through Employment New Zealand and Immigration New Zealand. This will help ensure they’re better resourced to respond to reports of exploitation and take action.

Next steps

Policy work has begun to enable legislative change where needed. This includes to:

  • Introduce a duty on third parties with significant control or influence over an employer to take reasonable steps to prevent a breach of employment standards occurring.
  • Disqualify people convicted of migrant exploitation and people trafficking from managing or directing a company.
  • Establish three new immigration infringement offences targeting non-compliant employer behaviour.
  • Allow Labour Inspectors to issue an infringement notice where employers fail to provide requested documents in a reasonable timeframe.

These changes will require new legislation which is expected to be introduced in the 2021/22 year.

Temporary Migrant Worker Exploitation review

MBIE is leading a policy and operational review of Temporary Migrant Worker Exploitation in New Zealand.

The goal of the Review is to reduce the exploitation of temporary migrant workers, including international students. Its objectives are to:

  • Prevent the occurrence of workplace (and other) conditions that might enable temporary migrant worker exploitation
  • Protect temporary migrant workers in New Zealand and enable them to leave exploitative employment
  • Enforce immigration and employment law to deter employer non-compliance through a fit-for-purpose offence and penalty regime.

Even though this Temporary Migrant Worker Exploitation Review focuses on temporary migrant workers, including international students, many of the proposals to reduce their exploitation could benefit everyone in work, including New Zealand permanent residents and citizens.

Read an overview of the changes:


In September 2018, Cabinet agreed to progress an action item in the coalition agreement between Labour and New Zealand First - to take serious action on migrant exploitation, particularly of international students.

In October 2019, we consulted on a set of proposed changes that will prevent migrant exploitation, protect exploited migrants, and better enforce appropriate working conditions and immigration obligations. Consultation closed on 27 November.

As part of the Review, we also commissioned wide-ranging research on the nature of temporary migrant worker exploitation, and the gaps and opportunities to address this. This research was conducted through a third party, to provide an independent and confidential space to hear the experiences of migrant and international student groups, and to hear from unions and businesses.

We also established a consultation group representing migrants, businesses, unions and international students. The group has provided perspectives as the review developed ideas.

Read the independent research and other background documents relating to the review:

Read the Cabinet paper that began the review:

Who to contact about exploitation

To contact the dedicated migrant exploitation team, contact MBIE on 0800 20 00 88 (Monday to Friday, 8.00am-5.30pm (excluding public holidays))

To report migrant exploitation online, fill out the form Reporting migrant exploitation on the Employment New Zealand website:

Reporting migrant exploitation(external link) — Employment New Zealand

To report anonymously, call Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111 or make an anonymous report on the Crime Stoppers website:

Crime Stoppers(external link)

To report people trafficking, call New Zealand Police 105 or 111 (if it is an emergency).

Last updated: 01 July 2021