National will clear the current residency backlog and provide a clear pathway for skilled migrants already in the country to gain residency.

Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says we are losing the skilled migrants we desperately need who moved to New Zealand before the lockdown with the promise there would be a pathway to residency for them and their families.

“In the last four years this Government, through poor planning and poor policy, have completely broken our immigration system so that we now have the longest queues for residence in our history and record wait times for getting residence visas processed

“This has destroyed our international reputation as a destination for skilled migrants to move to and is causing the migrants we do have onshore to look to take their skills elsewhere.

“We can’t afford to lose any more doctors, engineers, teachers and IT workers because they have no certainty around when they can become a resident.

“These people have played a pivotal role in getting New Zealand through the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Government is effectively forcing skilled migrants to leave the country, while trying to find space in MIQ for other foreign workers to replace them. It is madness in a time of skill shortages and MIQ shortages.

“National has come up with a plan to fix the issue.

“The first thing we will do is clear the residency backlog. We will unfreeze the residency pool and streamline and fast-track residency processing to clear the backlog of more than 30,000 applications.

“Then we need to offer our migrant workers here a pathway to residency. These are our dairy farmer workers, aged care workers, truck drivers, construction workers and hospitality staff who are in New Zealand because there was a skills shortage.

“Finally, we will decouple visas from a specific employer to stop migrant exploitation. A smarter approach is bonding people to sectors and regions which would make sure the right skills are in the right regions.

“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with record low unemployment and the biggest labour shortage in 40 years to offer a pathway to residence for those migrants who stuck with us through Covid and have contributed to our economy and our society.

“This pathway would be through a ‘Covid Contribution Visa’, which would give our valuable migrants the ability, time and surety to apply for residence.

“We expect this to affect around 35,000 Essential Skills workers and their families that will be processed in the next few years once we have cleared the current residency backlog. In the meantime we will offer all of these workers a three-year work visa so they do not have to keep reapplying while they wait.

“We cannot attract good people to our shores to help boost our economy and our productivity if we have a system that is in complete meltdown.

“By clearing the residency backlog and offering a Covid contribution pathway to residence we can clear the decks and start again.

“If we want the best, we need to be the best. Labour’s immigration policies have made New Zealand the worst and National has a plan to fix it.”