Govt gives path to NZ residency for some migrants

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse (Simon Wong / Newshub.)

Around 4000 long-term temporary migrants in the South Island will now have a pathway to New Zealand residency as part of a new Government plan.

The announcement was made by Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse in a speech to the Otago and Queenstown Chambers of Commerce on Wednesday.

The plan makes good on a 2015 promise by National to open the way for many of the lower-skilled workers to become residents.

Eligible workers will be granted a Work to Residence visa which would allow them to become residents after two more years of working in their current industry and region.

To be eligible:

  • Aged 55 or under
  • Be on an Essential Skills visa for a job in the South Island and have had one for the South Island five or more years
  • Be working full-time and their employers have no bad record with the Labour Inspectorate or Immigration
  • Meet standard residence health and character requirements

"There has been a significant growth in the number of lower-skilled temporary migrants in the South Island who help fill genuine labour shortages and have become well-settled here," Mr Woodhouse says.

"Many of these migrants are already well settled in New Zealand and make a valuable contribution to their communities.

"It will also enable employers to retain an experienced workforce that has helped meet genuine regional labour market needs," he said.

Mr Woodhouse also announced changes to permanent and temporary immigration settings, to "managing the number and improving the quality of migrants coming to New Zealand".

For permanent immigrants there will now be two remuneration thresholds for those looking to apply for residency under the Skilled Migrant Category.

One is set at the median income of $48,859 a year for jobs considered skilled; the other is 1.5 times the median income of $73,299 per year for jobs not currently considered skilled but are well paid.

Changes for temporary migrants include:

  • The introduction of remuneration bands to determine the skill level of an Essential Skills visa holder, which would align with the Skilled Migrant Category remuneration thresholds
  • The introduction of a maximum duration of three years for lower-skilled and lower-paid Essential Skills visa holders, after which a minimum stand down period will apply before they are eligible for another lower-skilled temporary work visa
  • Aligning the ability of Essential Skills visa holders to bring their children and partners to New Zealand with the new skill levels
  • Exploring which occupations have a seasonal nature and ensuring that the length of the visa aligns with peak labour demand

The public consultation on the temporary migration proposals will close on May 21, with the roll-out planned for later this year.