Immigration News Feb Overview

The government is beginning a back down on border restrictions due to public pressure for life to return to normality. Hence their rather hastily created plan for the border to re-open. Much like the traffic light setting with all its different permutations and requirements, the phased re-opening is equally complex.

The announcement made on 3 February outlines the schedule for further announcements that need to be made to implement the border reopening. What will be of interest to employers and those running businesses in New Zealand will be the ability to access the international labour market.

New exceptions

The government has announced new border class exceptions for tech sector workers and for external auditors. However, there are caps on the number of visas available.

There is also a requirement for those in the tech sector to be approved or sanctioned by a government department. External auditors will need to be assessed by CA ANZ – the professional body for accountants, auditors, and insolvency specialists.

This demonstrates an ongoing trend by the government of dictating numbers and interfering in the operation of the labour market.

Other Critical Workers

We are told there will be an expanded definition of Other Critical Worker that also reduces the requirement for that person to be paid 1.5-2 times the median wage in mid-March.

Apparently, industry sectors such as ICT, agriculture, education, and office professionals will benefit. No mention here of the construction sector.

The working holiday scheme system will also be back up and running (apparently) from 13 March in a desperate effort to try and get more workers to fill seasonal roles and assist in primary industries. The intention is to try and benefit tourism and hospitality sectors. How that benefit will be delivered to businesses still suffering the significant impact of isolation requirements under phase 2 of the red light setting is anyone’s guess, particularly given tourists (and only those from visa waiver countries) can only come in July – right at the beginning of New Zealand’s winter.

In March we expect to see “class exceptions” for critical workforces – which is unclear what that will mean.

The new work visa system

Our Australian cousins and those from visa waiver countries will be able to enter from July. This will also mark the start of the new work visa system. That is when business ought to be able to take full advantage of the international labour market. However, it is going to be limited to those earning over the median wage which, by then, I expect to rise from the $27 per hour setting to somewhere in the vicinity of $27.70.

By this time employers needing workers from offshore will have to have accreditation status. The new labour market testing rules will also come into force and are expected to be implemented in a rigorous fashion.

 From October 2022 normal visa processing resumes.

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