The New Zealand government will extend work visas for lower-paid skilled migrants by 12 months to aid the service sector, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has said.
In a statement, Mr Faafoi announced that the length of New Zealand’s Essential Skills Visa for workers who earn below the median wage would be doubled to two years.
This will allow 18,000 skilled migrants employed in the tourism, hospitality, and retail industries to remain in New Zealand for longer and support the economy.
Speaking on the visa extensions, Mr Faafoi said that the New Zealand government recognises the ongoing worker shortages amidst increasing labour demands from some sectors during the pandemic.
Extending the stay of onshore skilled migrants will help New Zealand make the most of the skills already available in the country, and allow businesses to fulfil their labour demands, said Mr Faafoi.
As a result, the New Zealand government decided to extend the stay of skilled migrants in the country to enable local businesses to continue to employ migrant workers, he continued.
Mr Faafoi also said that the process of renewing skilled visas to New Zealand for the 57,000 onshore skilled visa holders is set to be simplified.
For skilled migrants who wish to retain their existing jobs, their employers will no longer have to convince Immigration New Zealand (INZ) of a lack of availability of New Zealand citizens or permanent residents for the roles.
Moreover, medical and police clearance certificate requirements will also be waived for skilled migrants looking to reapply for their skilled visas to extend their stay in New Zealand.
Despite announcing so many positive updates for skilled migration to New Zealand, Mr Faafoi said that these changes were a temporary measure to help local employers through the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the New Zealand government remained committed to overhauling its existing migration system.
The migration system overhaul will see New Zealand move away from relying on skilled migrants having lower skill levels and focus on inviting higher-skilled migrants, in what has been dubbed as a ‘once-in-a-generation’ reset to New Zealand’s migration system.
As part of this overhaul, the New Zealand government will continue to adhere to plans of shifting to the Accredited Employer Work Visa, which will ensure that the work visas issued to skilled migrants reflect genuine skills shortages in the regional areas.
The Accredited Employer Work Visa will also strengthen New Zealand’s labour market testing, Mr Faafoi said.
Because New Zealand decided to extend existing skilled work visas by another 12 months, the Accredited Employer Work Visa is now set to come into effect from mid-2022.