Biggest immigration change in decades applauded

The most significant immigration change in decades will be welcomed by businesses struggling to retain and find staff and a huge relief for migrant workers and their families struggling with the uncertainty about their futures, says the EMA.

“News today that around 165,000 workers and their families may now qualify for a one-off resident visa provides both relief and a degree of certainty for New Zealand businesses,” says Chief Executive Brett O’Riley.

“Minister Kris Faafoi and Immigration NZ have copped a fair amount of flak in the past few months, but a response of this magnitude shows that they have listened and responded to the feedback we have been providing.

“This response will go some way to easing the pressures businesses continue to face in sourcing skilled and willing people to fill what we have called the skills chasm in New Zealand workplaces,” he says.

The 2021 Resident Visa will apply to about 110,000 migrant workers already in the country, and with families taken into account that means an estimated 165,000 people will become eligible for New Zealand residency under the one-off scheme.

“Importantly the visa will also be available for those who enter New Zealand as critical workers - and their families - for roles six months or longer until 31 July 2022, which means New Zealand again becomes an attractive destination in the face of international competition for skilled workers,” said Mr O’Riley.

The majority of applications are expected to be granted within a year of the category opening under a streamlined application process that still requires health, police and security criteria to be met and includes an online process opening today, rather than the previous paper-based process.

“We know INZ has been under the pump trying to manage the old paper-based processing and we’ve been assured that, while there will be a focus on processing the applications under the new scheme, processing of other visa applications will continue at a similar rate. Obviously, the new visa scheme will also take applications out of those other categories and hopefully free up some of the log jams and capacity issues elsewhere in the immigration system.”

The 2021 Resident Visa is open to most work-related visa holders such as Essential Skills, Work to Residence, and Post Study Work visas and immediate family members.

The eligibility criteria is to meet just one of the following tests:

  • Lived in New Zealand for three or more years, or
  • Earn above the median wage ($27 per hour or more), or
  • Work in a role on the Long Term Skill Shortage List, or
  • Hold occupational registration and work in the health or education sectors, or
  • Work in personal care or other critical health worker roles, or
  • Work in a specified role in the primary industries.

Visa holders can also include their partners and dependents in their application, with the first wave of applications being processed in December this year. These will be focused on current applications in the Skilled Migrant Category queue and those with Expressions of Interest applications who have dependents over the age of 17. The second wave will be processed from March 2022.

“The Minister has also made it clear that employers need to look in the future for ways to build their workforces from within New Zealand and attract, train and retain local workers. We don’t disagree with that goal though that will take time,’ says Mr O’Riley.

“What was missing was what employers could do in the interim to fill those well-known skills gaps before we can train or retrain local talent. We see opportunities over the next 12-36 months to retrain local workers, young and old, who have been displaced by COVID-19 impacts. While this happens, we will have over 100,000 new migrant residents to help address that interim gap, and while the Minister and his team continue to work on the broader long-term immigration reset.”

Immigration New Zealand will contact visa holders who are eligible to apply from 1 December by the end of October with more information about the application process.

An eligibility checker is available on INZ’s website.

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