In a decision delivering huge relief to employers and workers alike, the Government in a one-off programme will grant residency to about 110,000 migrant workers already in the country (on September 29, 2021) on temporary visas and their families (bringing the total to around 165,000 people).
Nurses and doctors leaving the country during a pandemic because of visa uncertainty has not exactly been a good look for the Government, which stopped processing residency applications in March last year.
Making the announcement, Minister of Immigration, Kris Faafoi said: “We acknowledge the uncertainty and difficulties COVID-19 and our closed borders have caused our migrant community. We have been carefully working through this residence option to offer certainty they need to truly make New Zealand their home.”
The 2021 Resident Visa will also be available for those who enter New Zealand as critical workers for roles six months or longer until 31 July 2022.
Agriculture is a big winner with this announcement, with about 9,000 migrant workers. BayBuzz reported last week on the labour shortages constraining our primary sector. But other sectors benefitting include aged care and nursing (about 5,000 workers), construction (15,000), manufacturing (12,000) and teachers (800).
To apply for the visa, non-NZ workers must meet just one of the following criteria:
- Have lived in New Zealand for three or more years,
- earn above the median wage ($27 per hour or more),
- work in a role on the Long Term Skill Shortage List,
- hold occupational registration and work in the health or education sectors,
- work in personal care or other critical health worker roles, or
- work in a specified role in the primary industries.
Here’s the perspective of Jim Galloway, president of HB Federated Farmers:
“This is a great policy which will help retain immigrants in NZ for many industries. With Immigration NZ stopping processing applications due to a lot of these international workers have been in limbo waiting. Due to Covid rules many of them haven’t been able to travel back to see wives, children and other family as they cannot get back into NZ because they are not residents or citizens. I know of some that will not have seen their families for nearly 3 years. This will give them a path to bring their families to the place they now call home and are making a huge contribution to.
“Another issue has been with children that have turned 18 since Covid. They have no work permit and are considered international students if they want to go to tertiary studies so have to get student visas and pay international fees which are crippling.
“There is a shortage of qualified Halal slaughtermen in NZ and many are on work visas. It looks like this will give them a path to residency which will go a long way to keeping the meat industry being able to produce Halal product.
“Getting the families here will be a challenge due to MIQ but at least they will know they will be coming.
“The next issue that needs solving is MIQ spaces for many professions like vets, machinery drivers, dairy farmers which are needed soon, are allowed here, but no MIQ space is available.”