In a move that can bring certainty for both employers and temporary migrant workers, the Immigration Minister has announced that work visas of all such workers who are currently in New Zealand and their visas due to expire before the end of 2020 will be extended by another six months. 

“The Government is making immediate short-term changes to visa settings to support temporary migrants already onshore in New Zealand and their employers, while also ensuring New Zealanders needing work are prioritised,” Mr Lees-Galloway said. 

About 16,500 workers who are currently in New Zealand with their visas due to expire before the end of this year will be benefited from this latest government decision. 

“We are extending temporary work visas due to expire by the end of 2020 by 6 months 16,500 workers,” Mr Lees-galloway said. 

“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.

“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.

“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.

Reducing the stand-down period from 12 to six months

The Minister has also announced a change in the stand-down period for low-skilled workers that currently requires them to leave the country for 12 months before embarking on a new work visa, allowing them to stay for an additional six months in the country before leaving the country for the stand-down period.  

“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 months stand-down period.

The stand-down means that lower-paid workers on temporary work visas have 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.

Notably, the stand-down period was introduced in 2017 to prevent lower-skilled, lower-paid foreign workers from becoming well settled in New Zealand without a pathway to residence.

Iain Lees-Galloway is urging the employers to focus on longer-term workforce planning and recruitment and training of New Zealand jobseekers.

“These short-term changes give employers some time to get ready for a changed labour market where more New Zealanders will be looking for work.

“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, which were announced pre-COVID-19. These changes 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.

Iain Lees-Galloway said that these changes are now more important than ever to support the Government’s wider programme of work for the economy.

“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.”