Many migrant workers currently in New Zealand will be able to stay and work here for longer, following adjustments to visa settings announced by Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi.
“Our economy is bouncing back better than expected and we are seeing labour shortages across many industries,” Kris Faafoi said.
“With the labour market outlook being more optimistic, we are implementing a range of changes to ensure the migrant workforce already in New Zealand can supplement employers’ efforts to recruit New Zealanders who have lost jobs due to COVID.
“The visa setting changes will run well into 2021, providing certainty for employers and workers.
“We will continue to watch closely how the labour market develops and whether further extensions are needed,” Kris Faafoi said.
“There are about 192,000 migrant workers in New Zealand. That is a similar number to a year ago but without the changes we are making the numbers would fall as visas expire and border restrictions mean limited numbers of new workers are able to come to New Zealand.
“With border restrictions in place to keep COVID-19 out, we cannot bring the numbers of migrant workers into New Zealand that many industries have come to rely on, especially for their peak seasons.
“Our priority remains to help get New Zealanders into jobs and we encourage employers to continue focusing on longer-term workforce planning, training, and improving wages and conditions to attract a local workforce.
“While these changes will allow employers to retain their existing migrant workforce, they will still need to prove that no New Zealanders are available before hiring new employees,” Minister Faafoi said.
The changes are:
- Employer-assisted work visa holders (and their partners and dependent children) who have a job and whose visas are expiring from January to July 2021 will have their visas automatically extended by another six months.
- The stand-down period, during which low-paid Essential Skills visa holders have to leave New Zealand, will be postponed until January 2022. The stand-down period means that Essential Skills visa holders earning less than the median wage (currently $25.50) must leave New Zealand for 12 months after having worked here for three years before they can return.
- Immigration New Zealand will continue to use the 2019 median wage of $25.50 per hour for immigration settings until at least July 2021 at which point the median wage will rise to $27 per hour.
- Working Holiday visas will be extended for six months, and restrictions will be relaxed on the maximum duration of work permitted, allowing Working Holiday visa holders to continue working in any industry they choose (including horticulture and wine sector roles). Working Holiday makers will no longer be transferred onto a Supplementary Seasonal Employer work visa when their working holiday visa expires. Migrants already on an SSE visa will be able to continue working for the horticulture and wine sectors, or apply for an Essential Skills visa if they find alternative qualifying work.
Immigration New Zealand will contact all eligible visa holders.
Note to editors:
Number of visa holders currently in New Zealand (as at December 2020)
- 189,000 temporary migrants with work rights
- 83,000 on employer-assisted work visas (most will be extended)
- 58,000 on other work visas, including post-study work (not affected) and working holiday visas (to be extended)
- 43,000 partners of New Zealanders, workers and students (some will be extended)
- 5,000 workers under the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme (not affected)
- 42,000 students (some with work rights, not affected)
- 31,000 visitors (not affected)
Ways for employers to keep their migrant workers
There are already ways for individual employers to retain their onshore workforce when these workers reach the end of their extension if they can show that there are no New Zealanders available to fill a role:
- Workers on employer-assisted visas can renew, and other migrants can obtain Essential Skills visas, if they have an offer of work for 30 hours per week and it can be shown that there are no New Zealanders available to do the job.
- Employers of low-paid migrant workers, who are subject to the stand down period, can avoid the stand down period by paying above the median wage.
- The Ministry of Social Development has made it easier for employers to see if New Zealanders are available for jobs by creating lists of occupations and regions where there is a clear over or undersupply of New Zealanders on Job Seeker Support. Where occupations are on an undersupply list an employer will not need to get a Skills Match Report in order to meet the labour market test.