January 21, 2021

Visa changes allow onshore migrants to stay, work longer

By: Gurbir Singh

Many migrant workers currently in New Zealand will be able to stay and work here for longer, following adjustments to visa settings announced late yesterday evening.

The visa setting changes will run well into 2021, providing certainty for employers and workers, according to Immigration Minister, Kris Faafoi.

“With border restrictions in place to keep COVID-19 out, we cannot bring the numbers of migrant workers into New Zealand that many industries have come to rely on, especially for their peak seasons…these changes will allow employers to retain their existing migrant workforce,” says Minister Faafoi.

The changes are:

  • Employer-assisted work visa holders (and their partners and dependent children) who have a job and whose visas are expiring from January to July 2021, will have their visas automatically extended by another six months.

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  • The stand-down period, during which low-paid Essential Skills visa holders earning less than the median wage (currently $25.50)have to leave New Zealand for 12 months, will be postponed until January 2022.
  • Immigration New Zealand will continue to use the 2019 median wage of $25.50 per hour for immigration settings until at least July 2021 at which point the median wage will rise to $27 per hour.
  • Working Holiday visas will be extended for six months, and restrictions will be relaxed on the maximum duration of work permitted, allowing such visa holders to continue working in any industry they choose. Working Holiday makers will no longer be transferred onto a Supplementary Seasonal Employer work visa when their working holiday visa expires. Migrants already on an SSE visa will be able to continue working for the horticulture and wine sectors, or apply for an Essential Skills visa if they find alternative qualifying work.

According to the announcement, INZ will contact all eligible visa holders.

As at December 2020, there are 189,000 temporary migrants onshore with work rights.