Regions and industries will benefit from temporary work visa proposals

  • Hon Iain Lees-Galloway

Making it easier for regions and industries to get the workers they need to flourish is at the heart of proposed changes to temporary work visas released for consultation today, says Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

“The Coalition Government is determined to make our Immigration system work better for New Zealand business and regions, so that those areas and sectors experiencing genuine labour shortages can get the support they need.

“It is clear that the untargeted one-size-fits-all approach by the previous Government has been failing our regions and industries with acute needs for labour, while loading enormous pressure on Auckland’s infrastructure.

“The current system is overly complex, includes a number of different visa options and isn’t adequately responsive to sectoral or regional differences in the labour market.

“There are also too few checks and balances on employers hiring migrants, leading to increased migrant exploitation as some employers with poor track records are still able to access migrant labour.

“To address these issues, the Government is proposing a set of reforms for employer-assisted temporary work visas to simplify the system and make it easier for business and regions to get the skilled workers they need to thrive.

“The proposals include introducing a new framework for assessing all employer-assisted temporary work visas. The new framework would be employer-led, rather than migrant-led, and will include checks for:

Employers – where approval will be granted to an employer to enable them to hire a migrant

  • Jobs – to ensure no New Zealander is able to do the job
  • Migrants – to ensure they meet character and health requirements.

“The new employer checks will help combat migrant exploitation by lifting the requirements on all employers and enabling the Government to put tougher tests in place for higher risk employers and employers looking to hire multiple migrants. 

“As part of the job checks, the proposals also include replacing the Essential Skills in Demand Lists with Regional Skills Shortage Lists and introducing sector agreements for sectors which rely heavily on migrant labour.

“Regional Skills Shortage Lists will better reflect the skill shortages that exist in the regions and provide a stronger signal to temporary migrants of opportunities in regional areas. 

“Sector agreements would help businesses in need source migrants for easily in return for commitments by the sector to employ and train more New Zealanders and to address their workforce needs more effectively.

“Ensuring that enough training opportunities are available to put young people on the pathway to skilled employment will be essential for addressing our long term workforce shortages. However, in the short term our immigration settings provide a mechanism for employers to fill more immediate needs.

“There will be more incentives and support for businesses to employ more New Zealanders, while improving employment conditions and certainty for both domestic and migrant workers.

“The proposed changes represent a significant shift in how we operate our Immigration system in the best interests of the New Zealand economy and our regions. I encourage everyone to have their say during this consultation process,” says Lees-Galloway. 

 Notes for editors:

  • The Government will also review some of the changes made by the previous Government to ensure they align with current priorities, including the stand down periods for lower-skilled migrants and family entitlements for lower-skilled workers.
  • Consultation on the proposals is open to all individuals, groups or organisations and closes on 18 March 2019, with announcements on final decisions to be made by mid-2019.
  • More information on the changes, including a link to the consultation document, can be found at (link to go live after 9am 18 December)