By Uglobal Magazine Staff
In what officials are calling an "immigration rebalance" plan, New Zealand government authorities recently announced new visa law changes aimed at moving away from attracting low-skilled labor in favor of workers from specialized, higher-paying sectors, such as construction, engineering and healthcare.
The government also announced that such coveted migrants, who would be benefitting from a streamlined process into the country, would need to be paid under defined median wage thresholds. Employers would also need special accreditation.
The news about updates to New Zealand's Accredited Employer Work Visa program come as the country announced a reopening by July of its borders, which had been limited as a pandemic safety measure.
“New Zealand cannot return to pre-pandemic trends that saw us overly reliant on growing numbers of lower-skilled workers and resulted in the increased exploitation of migrants,” immigration minister Kris Faafoi said in a statement.
The sought-after positions are listed within the government's "Green List." They include surgeons, veterinarians, psychologists, food technologists, software engineers, surveyors, construction project managers, electricians, plumbers, nurses, teachers and even dairy cattle farmers.
New Zealand amends its visa rules to attract highly skilled workers
Depending on the job, the law allows visa holders to apply for residency as early as September 2022. Others will have to wait two years.
New Zealand's law also notes that employers are supposed to find native residents before looking for migrant help.
Leon Li, a financial advisor and immigration advisor with NAA Immigration and Education, Ltd. based in Auckland, said that New Zealand's changes fit "the long-term goal of attracting high-skilled talents from overseas. However, the reduction in work rights for international students, including fewer entitlements to post-study work visas, may discourage education consumers from choosing New Zealand as a study destination. Coupled with this is the change to fewer work rights for partners of work visa holders from December 2022. This will serve to weaken New Zealand's attractiveness in the global marketplace for talent."
Li noted that there will be fewer pathways for residency for people not on the Green List.
"Does New Zealand not require low-skilled workers? Absolutely it does," he added. "It is not the overseas workers driving down the wages or competing for limited work opportunities, but lack of motivation and willingness of New Zealanders to work in these lower-skilled occupations."
Removing work visas for partners of visa holders
Marcel Booiman, a New Zealand immigration advisor with VisaVersa based in the Netherlands, said he was most surprised that the government was getting rid of the open work visa for partners of temporary visa holders. He echoed Li's opinion about that change not being beneficial.
"In my opinion, that will seriously affect the attractiveness of the country for potential migrants," he told Uglobal.
He added that the Green List looks like a reincarnation of other government policy, like the Long Term Skill Shortage List Resident Visa.
"It’s clear New Zealand is more and more aiming for highly educated and highly skilled migrants, but the fact that work rights are being taken away from their partners will not help to attract these migrants," Booiman added. "But who knows? [The government] has shown us that they can drop new policies, and exceptions to those policies, at any moment. I’m convinced there will be changes and tweaks to be announced going forward."
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