15 April 2024

Call to stop employer-led work visa, mixed reactions to new policy

Gurbir Singh

By Gurbir Singh:

The changes to temporary work visa scheme announced yesterday by the Minister of Immigration, Iain Lees-Galloway to make the “process more streamlined,” has received mixed reactions with one migrant group seeking an end to attaching visas to employers.

The Federated Farmers & Horticulture New Zealand, part of the primary sector of New Zealand which is worth more than $46 billion in exports annually, have welcomed these temporary work visas changes, saying they simplified the immigration system. The Tourism sector, too has reportedly  praised the work visa changes.

NZ First also applauded yesterday’s  announcement as the party “has consistently advocated for the need to focus our efforts on training and employing New Zealanders in our workforce.” 

The changes to employer-led temporary work visa have not found favours with the Migrant Workers Association.

The group has criticised  the overhaul of visa rules as these still “continues to perpetuate modern day slavery”.

National party, too was generally critical of the government’s new employer-led temporary work visa policy.

National Spokesperson Stuart Smith told NewsViews yesterday, “The costs of becoming accredited to hire temporary migrant workers may impact small businesses if costs are high.”

Not only that, “Increasing the annual salary requirement and removing the option to get a Permanent Resident Visa if you apply for a Talent (Accredited Employer) Resident Visa may be a sign the Government is trying to reduce the amount of options for people to get permanent residency.”

in a statement to NewsViews this morning,  Anu Kaloti of Migrant Workers Association does not see anything in the new rules that will put an end to worker exploitation, and warns it will continue.

“To stop exploitation of migrant workers, the practice of attaching visas to employers must stop. The new work visa policy continues to perpetuate modern day slavery”, she says.

“Experience and research tells us that exploitation of migrant workers mostly takes place when their visas are attached to the employers,” she says.  

Kaloti believes that employer accreditation may not be achievable by small or medium businesses and it may “embolden them further to exploit the vulnerable migrant workers with an aim to survive as a business.”

“The one temporary work visa instead of 6 different categories will still be attached to the employer. Increase of salary threshold from $55,000 to $79,650 per annum for the Work to residence Talent Accredited Employer visa is simply bizarre. Recently we have seen Kiwi workers (nurses, teachers and many more) take to the streets for single digit pay rises. How can this government justify a gigantic jump in salary threshold for employers of migrant workers?,” Kaloti questions.

The only change that has found favours with this migrant group is the reversal of the former National-led Government’s 2017 restriction on lower-paid workers bringing their families to New Zealand.

“There seems to be only one positive in the changes announced yesterday for temporary work visas: provision of spouses and children accompanying the work visa holder has been reinstated”, adds Kaloti.

National’s Stuart Smith, however, questions this reversal.

“How will low paid workers support their families if we reinstate the right for low-paid workers to bring their families to New Zealand on visitor visas?” he says.

The overhaul of these changes to be fully enforced in 2021, is still to be fully understood by the foreign workers, but the uncertainty has definitely caused a concern to them.

“This could prove to be an end to our pathway to permanent residency,” this is how one such worker to whom NewsViews spoke this morning, summed up the work visa changes.

Will the worker be proved right? Time will tell.

Related: https://www.newsviews.co.nz/changes-to-employer-led-temporary-work-visas/

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