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Government extends for six months temporary work visas for 16,500 workers due to expire at the end of this year; stand-down period shifted by six months for 600 workers

Government extends for six months temporary work visas for 16,500 workers due to expire at the end of this year; stand-down period shifted by six months for 600 workers
Ian Lees-Galloway. Illustration by Jacky Carpenter.

The Government's announced immediate short-term changes to visa settings that will allow thousands of temporary migrants already in the country to stay longer.

The changes were announced by Immigration Minister Ian Lees-Galloway.

Under the changes, 16,500 workers who were due to have employer-assisted temporary work visas expire by the end of this year, will see those visas extended by a further six months.

In addition, 600 lower-skilled workers due to be subject to the 12-month stand-down period (in which they would have to leave the country) have seen this period shifted from August this year to February 2021. The Government says the largest occupation group affected the by the stand-down in the next 12 months is dairy farm workers (113 affected in 2020).

"This will provide some immediate relief and certainty for migrants and employers in the short term while they recover from the impact of Covid-19 and adjust to the changing labour market conditions where more New Zealanders will be available for work," Lees-Galloway said.

The short-term visa changes would give employers some time to get ready for a changed labour market "where more New Zealanders will be looking for work", he said.

“...With more New Zealanders looking for work, some employers will need to adjust to a new situation. With the short-term changes we are making, however, there is some lead-in time for employers.”

This is the full statement Lees Galloway released on Tuesday:

The Government is making immediate short-term changes to visa settings to support temporary migrants already onshore in New Zealand and their employers, while also ensuring New Zealanders needing work are prioritised, Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says.

We are:

·Extending temporary work visas due to expire by the end of 2020 by 6 months (16,500 workers)

·Shifting the stand down by 6 months to February 2021 (600 workers)

·Ensuring New Zealanders needing work continue to be prioritised.

“We are assisting employers to make the most of the available workforce, both New Zealanders and temporary migrants on shore in New Zealand,” says Iain Lees-Galloway.

“We are extending all existing employer-assisted temporary work visas for people in New Zealand and whose visas are due to expire before the end of 2020 by six months, benefiting around 16,500 workers.

“This will provide some immediate relief and certainty for migrants and employers in the short term while they recover from the impact of COVID-19 and adjust to the changing labour market conditions where more New Zealanders will be available for work.

“Migrant workers who are subject to the 12 month stand-down period and were going to have to leave New Zealand this year will now be able to stay for the duration of the extension. This will benefit around 600 lower-skilled visa holders who would have been subject to the 12 month stand down period.

Iain Lees-Galloway urges employers to focus on longer-term workforce planning and recruitment and training of New Zealand jobseekers.

“These short-term changes give employers some time to get ready for a changed labour market where more New Zealanders will be looking for work.

“New low-skilled work visas will only be granted for six instead of 12 months as our priority is to preserve and prioritise future job opportunities for New Zealanders and give the system more flexibility to respond to labour market developments.”

Government is continuing to work on a number of changes, which were announced pre-COVID-19. These changes include a different way to define lower-skilled/lower-paid employment and a new process for employer-assisted work visas expected to be fully in place by mid-2021.

Iain Lees-Galloway said that these changes are now more important than ever to support the Government’s wider programme of work for the economy.

“With more New Zealanders looking for work, some employers will need to adjust to a new situation. With the short-term changes we are making, however, there is some lead-in time for employers.”

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In the 12 months to the end of August 2019, 242,730 work visas were approved, So 16,500 expiring before end of 2020 seems a bit low in comparison.


Awesome, so as unemployment increases more kiwis will be on welfare when they could be doing these jobs. Nice one ILG, you never fail to disappoint.


What makes it worse is once these wages cover basic expenses a lot of it goes back to the country they came from.

Ita a bit of a joke really isnt it, Masher. In the current situation, we probably dont need these people as kiwis can be trained to do these jobs over a period of time to gain the expertise where it is required.
We have had too many immigrants here anyway when we should have educationed, and given them the relative experience so kiwis to do the job/s. I understand there is a political agenda to be considered as well.
I blame National for bringing too many of the immigrants into the country which took away the incentives for kiwis by offering immigrants low wages and they could be discarded by companies at their will once they were about to progress to the next pay scale.

Typical short-term action - kick the can down the road. When will we have a Govt that is prepared to make the hard calls in the long term interests of NZ

We haven't had one for 40 years, so why would that change now! (Lange's being the last, and those changes pretty much killed the guy)

Typical short-term action - kick the can down the road. When will we have a Govt that is prepared to make the hard calls in the long term interests of NZ

Kicking the workers out would screw employers. There's a balance that needs to be struck - the writing and tone of the press release is strongly suggesting that there is not likely to be any further extension beyond this so employers need to deal with it.


I can see a big "I'll buy local if you employ local" sentiment coming to towns across NZ.

Employers will also need to deal with that.

Good luck with that

I agree with what you mean by that mate (or at least think), but small town NZ is concentrated with Karens.

Lanthanide. Agree balance is required. I was on the road in the SI on gypsy day when numerous herds are being moved and was struck by the profile of supervising staff. Almost all appeared to be filipino or Indian. The risks to industries critical to our recovery such as dairying must be factored in.

Bloody soft.

Before the covid 19 lockdown there were over 140,000 on the job seeker benefit, can you explain the situation when we HAVE to bring in overseas workers to work on farms and orchards, some on this site go on about low wages, the minimum wage next year will be $41600 yr for a full time employee, if thats not enough upskill to achieve a better job. Dairy farming pays approx $60,000 yr and includes a house.

Pat. Yes, dairying pays comparatively well, especially after you add in fringe benefits, which undermines the narrative that if we increased wages we wouldn't need to bring in foreigners for those roles.

He's awful, although it's a government decision of course.

Seems that this 'action' disproves the commonly held belief that it's impossible to get the arm of an invertebrate up behind its back.....

Waymad, you gotta start doing your podcast!
Your country needs you..

The 'employer assisted' qualification is interesting given the wage subsidy will soon run out and is not being extended. A reasonable percentage of businesses employing visa workers will likely cease trading; tourism restaurants etc. No mention of any change to welfare entitlements for those in this category so unless this changes you'd think a large ppn will be forced to leave or go underground.

This could backfire if locals start to question why we are keeping temp visa holders here when they are no longer needed and what will the costs be to taxpayers if we need to provide them more support.
May give National something to gain some votes over.

Spend some time in the farming hinterland and observe the population make up. In places like Ashburton visa workers are highly valued and viewed as mission critical to their districts prosperity by the true blue rural population.

Hey middleman, I'm not having a go at you and I appreciate your thoughtful comments. But, and this may sound harsh, I suspect that the farmers and enfranchised of American South 200 years ago viewed their low cost labour as mission critical too. However, we know that the productivity of the North was out doing the South anyway.

Kauri. Be careful there my friend, you will be branded a marxist if you continue to imply your revisionist heresy that industrial productivity disparity between the north and south was a key driver of the war. A titanic struggle of principle between good and bad, pro slavery vs abolitionists, one manifestly right the other simply wrong is the only approved way of contextualising the cause. Nuance is banned.

Yes because they will work for peanuts to get a foot in the door for NZ passport etc and of course for most employers they will try and pay them the least amount and work them like modern day slaves compared to what locals will put up with.
But I know not all are like this but you know many from vineyards to liquor stores to Burger King have all been caught under paying and over working staff who are desperate to come here.


Was in Qtown in weekend. Was talking couple 18 yr school leavers whom lost their jobs, they were trying find some work in Qtown, but had been turned down by most places. But nearly every establishment had foreign persons at front of house (I am not saying they are on a visa as i don't know) but suspect the majority would be. We should be training up the unemployed.

It continues to amaze me the level of myopic passive racism exhibited by a good percentage of posters here. These people seem to forget that the reason we have the RSE scheme and continue to require other migrant workers is the plain immutable fact that Nzrs don't want the work offered. When they are forced via sanctions they are a complete liability. Hawks Bay/Bay of Plenty can't get it's produce off-farm without them. Many farms (dairy or otherwise) couldn't operate without them. The simple fact is these people are hard working and want to be here.. unlike many currently on MSDs books


I'm not sure who you are calling "racist", but this site is one of the few where there seems to be good reasoned debate regarding immigration. Rather than blaming NZers who don't want the jobs, we need to be thinking deeply about "why" they don't want the jobs. Often the jobs are low paid, long and unsociable hours and just unpleasant (I've done my time pruning and picking kiwifruit and it's sore back, sore neck mind numbing labour better suited to a robot). My point is rather than keep subsidising these industries with cheap and pliable labour we need to let them shape up or shut down otherwise our productivity will keep underperforming. The removal of agri subsidies in the 80s and 90s while hard at the time made NZ agri more productive and competitive - time to do the the same regarding cheap/pliable labour subsidy.

Kauri, you've inadvertently reinforced my point regarding labour. Yes it's hard work, often it's unsocial ( it's not a 9-5 job, Monday to Friday) As for "cheap" labour that is patently untrue. RSE workers are paid market rate (at LEAST minimum wage but usually higher) and provided with accomodation. As far as "subsidised labour" it's anything but. Unfortunately due to very few Kiwi's wanting to do the unpleasant antisocial long houred jobs primary employers must resort and incidentally, justify why they need RSE's and migrants. They don't do it by choice but by necessity and if they could find NZrs to work they would because ultimately it's cheaper

I think you missed my point (or I didn't make it well enough). If employers didn't have the option to source offshore labour they'd either improve their productivity by employing better technology, improve their working conditions to attract NZers, or shut shop.
Regarding market rate, the local market is not allowed to test this as offshore labour is an option and hence price discovery is limited and minimum wage is merely an artificial floor. Regarding subsidised, I mean in a similar way to which agri subsidies artificially propped up unproductive agri in the 80s and prior.
Anyway good debate. Po mārie.

What a load of crap. If you are offering a job in a poor location, with bad hours and few if any future career advancement prospects then you are going to have to compensate people for that. Saying they are paying “market rate” but you are unable to find people means they are NOT paying a market rate - the market rate would be the rate that attracts employees to do the job.

The fact is, employers are leveraging people’s desire to move to NZ as a benefit, so they will put up with poor wages and conditions. The problem is these employers don’t pay for the costs and infrastructure to support the growing population, and so they offload costs to everyone else.

You no doubt make a good point. However I would suggest there are some industries/sectors where that point is much less valid.

Very true Fritz, perhaps in the hospitality/tourism sector migrants are superfluous to requirements however we should be careful not to tar all temporary migrant workers with the same brush, as some seem wont to do

Playing the racism card right out of the gate, a sure sign that you can’t make a cogent argument in its own right. NZers don’t want the work offered - kick rocks, bud. NZers don’t want the work for the wages offered, which is where immigration came in. If these businesses offered 1st world wages NZers would be all over it, but instead they offer a pittance and then complain no one wants their shit job for 2/5ths of bugger all, so we need to import some poor bugger from the third world to do it.

Cancel culture, right here.

While there are people with racist views, the majority of people here are looking at it as a purely economic point of view. Irrespective of where the immigration comes from, the results are the same - driving down wages, increasing housing costs and adding pressure to key infrastructure.

Almost all of the benefits of the immigration falls into the hands of a small minority, but the costs are paid for by everyone. That is the issue. Trying to duck the issue by claiming ‘racism’ is just dishonest

For crying out loud
I learnt how to bring in the cows, do the mastitis thing, then milk them, feed the calves by hand, then hose down the yard, then feed out the pigs. All at age 10,

Did you also learn how to do a feed budget, grazing management plan, irrigation schedule, heat detection, calving schedule, SCC management, fertiliser budget and application plan?? Doubtful. The mere fact that you discount the skills required to run a modern farm merely reinforces my point

We don't do irrigation where we are. Our Fertiliser plan is we get either the Farmlands Field Specialist or the Ballance-Agri rep out, do a soil test if necessary, tell them how many bales of baleage we took off and hey presto, all done on the back of an envelope

Hahaha, man I'm surprised you're still in business. The "back of an envelope" guess went out the window for any successful farm years ago. Ever heard of foliage tests? What about TFO (total farm outputs).Heard of an FEP?? But hey, if you're happy, and I'm sure Ballance's rep is happy, that's all good. All I'm saying is don't knock the RSE/migrants because they fill an important function.

I highly doubt migrants from India and the Phillipines can do any of what you just mentioned

The unskilled migrants no, you're correct, although they generally aren't hired by farms. However we have many skilled farm managers (lvl 1 & 2) and other skill levels from the Philippines, Indonesia, India and elsewhere. There's a good reason Managers and Supervisors are on the Skills Shortage List.. we haven't got many here.

If they are skilled farm managers then they deserve a decent salary - given the remote locations, difficult hours, high level of responsibility and the brains required then they would deserve on average to match the Auckland council average wage for its IT department which a few years ago was over $100,000pa.
There should be no issue with employing people on double the national wage. But to make it a level playing field between desperate 3rd world and developed NZ (free medicine, free education, Super) then work permits ought to be expensive as they are in many other countries and paid for by the employer. That is the only way to get employers to seriously try to find Kiwis for their jobs.

Tautoko e hoa.

Just for context .... lets have the full story ...
How many Skilled level 1 and level 2 Fillipino Farm Managers are there currently working in NZ. Were they trained in NZ or were they already trained before they came here and how much does a Level 1 Farm Manager earn and a Level 2 Farm Manager earn including, Tax Free Benefits
How many unskilled Temporary Guest Workers?

A dairy farm over the hill from us milk 400 cows.
A mother and son team work 16 hour days.
No thanks.

It is very common here to blame the outcome and symptoms of underlying issues as causes of suffering or problems. A good example is blaming banks for house prices, instead of the underlying issue of lack of investment opportunities in other sectors that can pay the increased risk of lending. Another issue is to blame immigrants for the number of people who are unemployed. While I totally agree that the number of chefs, restaurant and retail managers we let into the country is simply ridiculous, there is also demand for low wage workers who will do important jobs. I do not think there is a general preference for supermarkets to employ immigrants. But they are unwilling to pay higher than minimum wage.

Very succinct reasoning Believer. I agree with what you're saying, however due you believe that paying nearly $20/hr for an unskilled and often poorly educated school leaver to place boxes on a shelf is inherently wrong? Remember there is also the issue of parity regarding the rest of the staff. I recently saw an induction document from NewWorld.. it actually had to spell out that new employees must shower regularly (once a day). This is the sort of issues some employers are dealing with constantly. I really don't understand where this conception of migrant workers are low paid, cheap labour stems from, it is an outdated and frankly incorrect assumption.

I agree with you. There are minimum wage, or close to minimum wage jobs. And lifting minimum wage is not the answer as it just removes parity of pay. And most of these jobs need doing too (and obvious exception is fast food chains). NZ minimum wage means that there are no cheap labor. You get paid more here for these jobs than any other country on earth (except for Australia, Luxembourg and Franc).
A full time minimum wage job pays about $39k a year. That is not low pay. The main challenge for most people on minimum wage is that they will not get near the 40 hours pw.

Well said Hook, Bob Jones once said to a prospective employee, what have you got to offer, if the answer is not much then don't expect to get $25 hr

I listened to the interview on RNZ this morning talking about the visa extension, they were saying that if employers didn't want to lose their foreign workers one thing they could do would be to pay them at least $25 /hour (i.e. at least median wage), that would bump them into another visa category and all is gravy. Then they spoke to a few of the employers and they unanimously said there was no way they could pay these workers $25 /hour. So, you're completely wrong. The workers on these visas make minimum wage or slightly above it. You are misinformed or wilfully ignorant.

Foreign workers on under $25ph and cost of work visa insignificant - no wonder we have rorts. It is a simple policy to keep poor Kiwis poor. We are rapidly moving to a society with yawning gaps between its elite, its middle class and those at the bottom. Maybe the National party was responsible but the Labour party certainly should be highly embarassed because they have encouraged it.


I wish I could get decent native NZers to apply for the jobs I advertise. Well paid professional jobs. The few that do apply usually have bad attitudes. I had one person respond to a job ad with their salary demand, or they said, they wouldn't be wasting their time (sic).

If they are well paid professional jobs and all such Kiwis have emigrated then we should be getting immigrants to fill these jobs (subject to an appropriately high Work Visa charge). Can we assume your professional jobs are not supermarket checkout operators, pump attendants, managers of small liquor outlets, cleaners, Uber drivers, chefs, baristas, etc?

In my experience, as soon as professionals start pointing out things like salaries not moving in their industry for a decade, those professional skillsets start ending up on the skilled shortage list.