Changes to temporary work visas confirmed

  • Michael Woodhouse

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse today confirmed changes to temporary work visa conditions following an extensive consultation process.

“The Government is committed to striking the right balance between ensuring New Zealanders are at the front of the queue for jobs and making sure our regions have access to temporary migrant labour necessary for sustained economic growth,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“We are also committed to ensuring that lower-skilled migrants are clear about their future prospects in New Zealand, which is why we consulted on a number of changes to temporary work visa conditions.”

The changes consulted on included introducing remuneration bands to help determine skill levels; a maximum duration of three years for lower-skilled visa holders, after which a minimum stand down period will apply before they are eligible for another lower-skilled visa; and requirements for partners and children of lower-skilled visa holders to meet visa conditions in their own right.

“The consultation process resulted in around 170 submissions and today’s announcement shows the Government has listened to the feedback raised by employers and industry, particularly in the regions,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“While the minimum stand down periods and visa requirements for partners and children will still apply for lower-skilled migrants, we are amending the remuneration band for mid-skilled migrants to address issues raised during the consultation process.

“As a result, the remuneration band for mid-skilled will be 85 per cent of the New Zealand median income, which is currently $41,538 a year, instead of $48,859 as proposed during consultation.

“This means that any migrant earning below $41,538 a year will be considered lower-skilled and will be subject to the stand down periods. Any migrant earning between $41,538 and $73,299 a year in an occupation classified as ANZSCO Level 1 – 3 will be considered mid-skilled, and those earning over $73,299 a year will automatically be considered higher-skilled, regardless of their occupation.

“The new mid-skilled remuneration band recognises the fact that these workers are filling genuine skill shortages and are more likely to progress with further skills acquisition or work experience. It also provides more certainty for employers in planning and training their workforce.

“The consultation process also uncovered a misunderstanding around what the changes mean in terms of employers’ ability to continue to access lower-skilled migrants.

“I want to reassure employers that the changes announced today are not designed to reduce the number of migrants coming in on temporary work visas.

“Employers will continue to be able to employ migrant workers where there are genuine labour or skill shortages. However, these changes will help provide clarity around the conditions under which temporary migrants come here.

“Today’s announcement is another example of this Government’s responsible, pragmatic approach to immigration and is in stark contrast to Opposition parties who want to decimate the regions by cutting immigration by tens of thousands.”

The changes to temporary work visa conditions will be introduced on 28 August, alongside the previously announced changes to the Skilled Migrant residence category.

Other issues highlighted during consultation will also be addressed during Phase Two of the review of temporary migration settings.

These include developing a framework for further targeting of immigration settings by sectors and regions, developing proposals to incentivise and reward good employer behaviour, and ensuring that seasonal work visas reflect seasonal work.

Phase Two will also address concerns raised by primary industries that the current ANZSCO lacks classifications for some jobs and therefore disadvantages workers whose occupations are classed at a lower-level by default.

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