December 4, 2020

Relief for temporary migrants, Govt extends work visas

Government is 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.

This will benefit around 16,500 Essential Skills and Work to Residence visa holders who are onshore in New Zealand and whose visa will expire before the end of 2020.

The immediate short-term changes to visa settings have been made to support temporary migrants already onshore in New Zealand and their employers while also ensuring New Zealanders needing work are prioritised.

Lees-Galloway
Immigration Minister, Iain Lees-Galloway (Photo: NewsViews)

In an announcement made today, the Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says “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.”

Govt is also shifting the stand-down of lower-skilled work visa holders by 6 months to February 2021. This will benefit 600 lower-skilled work visa holders who would have been subject to this stand-down between August and the end of December 2020.

The Government has also decided to delay the stand-down period until February 2021 instead of August 2020.

“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.

“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,” Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says.

As a result, temporary migrants will be able to remain in New Zealand for a further 6 months after their stand-down would have taken effect (in line with the extension to their visa).

The stand-down period was introduced in 2017 and required lower-paid workers on temporary work visas to leave New Zealand for 12 months after holding a work visa for three consecutive years, before they can apply for another lower-skilled visa.

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.

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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, that 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.

“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.”

These decisions also include reducing the duration of all new low-skilled essential skills visas from 12 to six months for the next 18 months. This will apply to all new lower-skilled Essential Skills work visa applications.

Migrant workers on temporary employer-assisted visa whose job has ended need to apply for a new visa or leave New Zealand if they are able to.

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