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.
·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.”