Changes to onshore visas will provide employers and visa holders with more certainty, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has announced.
Around 10,000 Working Holiday visas and Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) work visas due to expire between 21 June 2021 and 31 December 2021 will be extended for another six months to help manage ongoing labour shortages while New Zealand’s COVID-19 border restrictions remain in place.
SSE visa holders will also be given open work rights, allowing them to work in any sector.
“This will provide employers with an assurance that they can continue to access the current onshore workforce to help fill roles.
“It will also put the minds of visa holders at ease knowing they can stay and work in New Zealand for the foreseeable future,” Kris Faafoi said.
“We will continue to monitor the border and labour market situations and will extend these visas again if necessary.”
Essential Skills work visas will not be extended again, but the duration of Essential Skills visas for jobs paid below the median wage will increase from six to 12 months taking them back to pre-COVID settings. The implementation of the stand-down period for these jobs will also be further postponed until July 2022.
“These changes will provide more certainty to workers and their employers that workers whose skills are still needed can remain in New Zealand, subject to labour market testing to prove there are no New Zealanders available to fill the role if an employer wants to support a work visa application,” Kris Faafoi said.
“The visa extensions and deferral of the stand-down period are temporary measures and reflect the Government’s commitment to support employers and sectors facing workforce shortages while our border restrictions remain in place.
“This approach is in line with the overall objective of new temporary work visa reforms that are designed to ensure New Zealanders are prioritised for work opportunities.”
Alongside these changes to Essential Skills work visas, from 19 July, visa applications will be assessed against the updated median hourly wage rate of $27. This pay rate will determine whether jobs are treated as higher or lower paid. The wage rate was set following public consultation.
Employers paying under the median wage can still access migrant workers but will need to check with the Ministry of Social Development to see whether a registered job seeker is available.
“The Government recently outlined our long-term vision for New Zealand’s immigration system which will involve sectors making a managed transition to new ways of attracting, training and upskilling Kiwis into jobs and investing in productivity measures that will support New Zealand’s COVID-19 recovery.
“We encourage sectors and employers to think about how to make this shift and look for ways to recruit New Zealanders before turning to temporary migrant workers,” Kris Faafoi said.
Immigration New Zealand will contact all visa holders eligible for the Working Holiday or SSE visa extension by 25 June 2021.
Working Holiday visas expiring between 21 June and 31 December 2021 will automatically be extended for six months.
SSE work visas expiring between 21 June and 31 December 2021 will automatically be extended for six months with open work rights allowing them to work in any sector.
Anyone onshore who has previously held a temporary work visa will still be able to apply for a SSE work visa. New visas granted under this category will be restricted to work in the horticulture and viticulture sectors.
The median wage increase will apply to Essential Skills work visa applications, as well as Skilled Migrant Category residence applications and the Other Critical Worker border exception category.
The implementation of the stand-down period is being further postponed until July 2022. The stand-down period requires people on lower-paid Essential Skills work visas to leave New Zealand after a certain amount of time before they can apply for another lower-paid work visa.