July 28, 2021

Govt extends Essential Skills visas duration to 24 months

The Government is simplifying the application process and extending the maximum duration of certain Essential Skills visas from 12 months to a maximum of 24 months while COVID border restrictions remain in place.

The announcement was made this morning by Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi.

From Monday 19 July, the maximum duration of Essential Skills visas, for jobs paid below the median wage, will increase from 12 months to 24 months. The maximum duration of essential skills visas for jobs paid above the median wage is already three years.

The application process for Essential Skills visas will also be simplified for workers remaining in their current roles.

Essential Skills visas are available to anyone who is offered full-time employment (30+ hours) and can meet other eligibility requirements. The majority of Essential Skills visa holders work in the service sector which includes tourism, hospitality and retail. 

Extending Essential Skills visas to last two years means 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. An update will be provided as soon as an exact date is confirmed.

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.

The Immigration Minister said these Essential Skills visa changes would be temporary measures to support employers in the unique COVID-19 situation and “our long-term vision for immigration settings is to grow talent here in New Zealand and build a more self-reliant labour market.”

This extension is expected to provide certainty to at least 18,000 onshore visa holders and the streamlined application process will benefit at least 57,000 visa holders.

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