Transparency needed for making exceptions on visas

The government says it allowed the Avatar film crew back into New Zealand in spite of the current border closures because the making of the film offers “significant economic value” to our country. But this criterion is being applied unevenly. What about the America’s Cup crew, or the many work visa holders stranded overseas – do they not also offer significant economic value?

The government seems to be focusing on picking winners at the arbitrary discretion of the economic development minister. But these decisions are of national importance and require a lot more consultation and transparency.

The border restrictions blocking migrant workers from re-entering New Zealand are having a detrimental impact on local communities and their economies. Employers can’t get much-needed workers back into the country – workers who obtained visas in the first place because there were no New Zealanders to perform the work – and businesses are suffering as a result.

Small-to-medium businesses require access to staff with the skills and knowledge they need to help their businesses prosper.

Some of these workers may have been classified through the government’s arbitrary and outdated immigration tools as low- or mid-skilled, but that’s doesn’t mean they are unimportant in the context of a business operation and its ability to prosper.

The situation clearly demonstrates the point made by the new leader of the opposition. it’s the economy at the local level that needs attention. But currently, people seeking re-entry to New Zealand with a legitimate work visa now find themselves in an immigration lottery.

If there is a new economic criterion being applied to make decisions on who’s in and who’s out, we should all be told about it. We need to know what it is and we need to know it is being applied evenly, for big business as well as families and work visa holders trapped outside of the border closures.

Fewer than 20% of applications by non-residents to enter New Zealand, including work visa holders, have been approved according to the latest Immigration New Zealand figures.

The government appears to have overlooked these people and the small businesses that employ them and rely on them.

Aaron Martin is the principal lawyer at New Zealand Immigration Law, for more news, opinion, and information about immigration issues check out our blog.


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