28 February 2024

Simple processes for migrants, ‘backdoor entry to residency’ shut from 31 July

Significantly simplified immigration processes that provide faster processing and a new Green List hard to fill roles are the new changes coming into effect from 31 July when New Zealand borders fully open.

New Zealand government is also shutting the backdoor route to residency by tightening post-study work rights when doors open for international students at July-end.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today announced a major package of reforms, which include an early opening of New Zealand’s border and a simplification of immigration settings, to address the immediate skill shortages and speed up the economic recovery from COVID-19.

“New Zealand is in demand and now fully open for business,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“New Zealand’s international border will reopen to all tourists and visa holders two months earlier than planned on 31 July…By helping to relieve urgent skills shortages, opening up tourism and putting our immigration settings on a more secure footing, we are building on our proven plan to secure New Zealand’s economic future,” Prime Minister said.

The Government has also announced new rebalanced immigration settings which will help businesses access the key skills they need while ensuring wages and working conditions are improved for everyone.

Some of the highlights of reforms announced today are:

  • Border will now fully open from 11:59pm, 31 July
  • New Green List that includes over 85 hard to fill roles created to attract and retain high-skilled workers to fill skill shortages
  • Eligible migrants employed in the Green List occupations can come to New Zealand on a work visa from 4 July and apply for residence from September 2022.
  • Temporary exemption to tourism/hospitality businesses from paying the median wage to recruit migrants on an Accredited Employer Work Visa. Instead, a lower wage threshold of $25 per hour will be required until April 2023.
  • Significantly simplified immigration processes that provide faster processing for businesses. Immigration New Zealand will endeavour to have these visas processed within 30 days once an employer is accredited.
  • Around 20,000 migrants already in New Zealand and with visas expiring before 2023, are being granted either a six-month extension or a new two-year visa with open work conditions
  • Two-year open work visas have been granted to Essential Skills, Post-Study Work and Partner of a New Zealander work visa holders who were also onshore on 9 May and whose visas are expiring on or before 31 December
  • From 4 July, the Accredited Employer Work Visa will include a median wage threshold
  • From December 2022, most partners of temporary migrant workers will need to qualify for an Accredited Employer Work Visa in their own right, instead of automatically getting an open work visa
  • During 2023 a new requirement will come into effect requiring employers to be accredited to employ any migrant
  • Full resumption of international education from 31 July
  • Online visitor visa applications reopen to Pacific Island Forum countries (excluding Australia) from 16 May
  • Cruise ships able to return with the opening of the maritime border from 31 July, etc.

While door to international education will open from 31 July, the New Zealand government is “shutting the backdoor route to residency.

“Changes we’re announcing today seek to attract students to New Zealand to learn, while also shutting the backdoor route to residency,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.

Changes for international students include:

  • Students in non-degree level courses will not get post-study work rights except where they are studying and then working in specified shortage and skilled occupations
  • For degree-level and other eligible international students the length of time they can work after their studies will mirror the time they study in New Zealand. Currently some students can work for up to three years after just 30 weeks’ study.
  • Masters and PhD students will retain the right to work in New Zealand for up to three years after their studies
  • Students will also not be able to apply for a second post-study visa in New Zealand.

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