The Government is tweaking migration settings to make it easier for businesses to continue employing some migrant workers.
It is doubling the duration of the Essential Skills visa to two years for migrants with jobs that pay less than the median wage.
Migrants with Essential Skills visas paid more than the median wage can already stay for three years. No changes to their visas are being made.
Essential Skills visas are available to anyone who is offered full-time employment (30+ hours) in New Zealand and can meet other eligibility requirements. The majority of Essential Skills visa holders work in the services sector - tourism, hospitality and retail.
The Government expects the change to provide more certainty to around 18,000 Essential Skills visa holders paid less than the median wage.
The change will take effect on July 19 and be temporary.
The application process for Essential Skills visas will also be simplified for workers remaining in their current roles.
Employers won’t be required to complete a labour market test where a worker is applying for a visa for a full-time role, which the worker already holds. These applicants also won’t need to provide medical and police certificates to Immigration New Zealand if that information has been supplied previously.
A labour market test will still be required where employers are filling a job vacancy to prove there are no New Zealanders available before a migrant worker can be hired. This is in line with the Government’s objective to ensure Kiwis are prioritised for jobs.
“These changes complement the recent extension we granted for around 10,000 Working Holiday and Supplementary Seasonal Employment visa holders,” Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said.
Faafoi said the new Accredited Employer Work Visa, which was due to come into effect on 1 November, will be delayed until the middle of next year.
“The Government remains committed to the Accredited Employer Work Visa, which will ensure work visas issued reflect genuine regional skill shortages and strengthen labour market testing. However, we expect most Essential Skills visa holders will apply for this two-year visa, meaning the implementation of the Accredited Employer Work scheme would not be viable because of likely low uptake,” Faafoi said.
“Our long-term vision for immigration settings is to grow talent here in New Zealand and build a more self-reliant labour market.
“The Government’s $320 million targeted investment for free trades training, which has helped just over 144,000 people into training in the past year, is part of that vision.
“We want to work with sectors and see them develop plans to attract, train and upskill Kiwis into roles, and invest in productivity changes that can help them move away from a reliance on low-paid and low-skilled migrant workers. Many sectors and employers are already looking at how to make those shifts as a result of COVID pressure on the supply of workers.”