Thousands of migrant workers caught in visa limbo will soon have the opportunity to apply for expedited residency.
The government has confirmed that it is establishing a single resident visa, which could see some 165,000 people applying.
The unique 2021 resident visa includes more than 5,000 health and elderly care workers, around 9,000 primary industry workers, and more than 800 teachers.
Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said some construction and manufacturing workers would also be eligible.
“We are providing a way forward for our migrant families who have long been disrupted by Covid-19, while ensuring that businesses have the certainty they need to plan for the future and continue to drive economic recovery.”
“The changes give migrants certainty about their future here, allowing them to continue to put down roots and will help reunite many families who were separated by border restrictions that prevent Covid-19 from entering the community.
Expressions of interest from qualified immigrants for residency visas have stopped since March last year.
Hundreds of doctors and nurses caught up, and the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) raised concerns about a “mass exodus” at Faafoi’s office in June.
Migrant workers, fed up with the lack of a means of residence in the rural sector, were also considering leaving the country.
The 2021 resident visa would be available to most work-related visa holders, including Essential Skills, Work-to-Residence, and Post-Study Work visas and their immediate family members.
Applicant must have been in New Zealand on September 29, 2021 and must have or have applied for (and subsequently received) a work visa.
They must also meet one of the following criteria:
- lived in New Zealand for three or more years, or
- earn above median wage ($ 27 per hour or more), or
- work in a position on the Long-Term Skills Shortage List, or
- have an occupational record and work in the health or education sector, or
- work in personal care or other critical healthcare worker roles, or
- Work in a specific role in primary industries.
The visa will also be available to those who entered New Zealand as critical workers for roles of six months or more until July 31, 2022.
Partners and children could be included in the application, and Faafoi said most applications would be granted within a year of applications opening.
“This initiative addresses that immediate problem, while work on rebalancing immigration looks to the longer term to prepare for the eventual reopening of New Zealand’s borders.
“But our message to industries and employers remains clear; they need to find ways to develop a resilient workforce and to attract, train and retain local workers and reduce their dependence on low-skilled migrant labor.”
Federated Farmers immigration spokesman Chris Lewis described the policy as a “sensible solution.”
“There will be big smiles in stables and tractors across the country after this announcement.”
He said that many migrant workers had been looking for opportunities abroad that had a higher probability of residence.
“We have been losing people to Australia and Canada. New Zealand agricultural employers know the threat these countries pose and their efforts to retain our experienced agricultural workforce.”
Lewis said that despite the news, it remains imperative that the industry have access to more migrant workers.
“There is still a significant shortage of agricultural workers in many regions.”
Applications for the 2021 resident visa will be implemented in two phases.
As of December 1, 2021, people who have submitted a Qualified Migrant Category (SMC) or a Job Residency application, as well as those with dependent children 17 years of age or older who currently have an expression of interest, can apply. SMC filed.
As of March 1, 2022, all other eligible applicants, including others in SMC’s Expressions of Interest pool, can apply.