Home / News / World /  New Zealand relaxes immigration rules: Visa extension, special scheme limit hike

New Zealand government has announced temporary changes to immigration rules, aiming to lure overseas workers to fill labour gaps. The measures also include providing median wage exemptions to crucial sectors through sector agreements, temporarily doubling numbers under the Working Holiday Scheme, and extending visas to retain labour already in country, said Immigration Minister Michael Wood in a statement. 

The doubling of Working Holiday Scheme cap for 2022/23 will see an extra 12,000 working holiday makers able to enter New Zealand. The onshore working holiday makers visas expiring between 26 August 2022 and 31 May 2023 will be extended for 6 months to keep workers that are already in country, and those offshore given more time to travel, the minister said. 

The measures come as the jobless rate stood at 3.3% in the second quarter. Last week, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand lifted the official cash rate by 50 basis points to 3.0%, in a seventh straight hike to rein in inflation.

“As the world recovers from COVID-19, labour shortages continue to be a persistent ongoing global symptom," Michael Wood said. “Our immigration rebalance was designed during the pandemic and included the flexibility to respond to scenarios, such as the global labour shortage we now face. These measures are about providing immediate relief to those businesses hardest hit by the global worker shortage.

“We have listened to the concerns of these sectors, and worked with them to take practicable steps to unlock additional labour, we know these measures will help fill skills gaps, as businesses work towards more productive and resilient ways of operating."

New Zealand will also provide an additional opportunity for those who previously held a working holiday visa but didn’t travel due to Covid-19 to come to New Zealand for the summer.  New visas will be issued to people from October 2022 allowing them to enter New Zealand by 31 January 2023. This visa will allow them to be in New Zealand for 12 months.

“We are also doubling the capped Working Holiday Schemes, with a one-off increase, to recognise the spots that were unused last year due to the border closure. This will give the ability for up to an extra 12,000 working holiday makers to be able to enter and work in New Zealand over the next 12 months. These changes will have a positive impact on the workforce, and will make the most of the increase in working holiday makers we expect to welcome during the peak summer season," the minister said. 

The jostling for workers is part of a global trend that has helped push up wages in New Zealand, posing a challenge to the fight on inflation by the central bank, which raised interest rates last week to their highest since Sept. 2015.

Other steps include a relaxation of wage rules for skilled migrants in sectors such as care of the aged, construction and infrastructure, meat processing, seafood, and adventure tourism. (With Agency Inputs)


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