Immigration Minister boosts cap on temporary visas for seasonal workers

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Newshub

The Immigration Minister is increasing the cap on how many temporary work visas can be issued to provide seasonal support in New Zealand's regions. 

The cap on the number of temporary visas that can be granted to employ foreign seasonal workers is set to rise by 3150 over two years to 16,000.

In the first year it will increase by 1550 to 14,400 for 2019/2020, and approval has been given for the cap to be raised by a further 1600 places to 16,000 in 2020/2021. 

But the latter increase is conditional on the industry "proving it's making the horticulture and viticulture sectors easier and more attractive for Kiwi workers," the minister, Iain Lees-Galloway, said. 

"They'll also have to up their game and make sure there is more accommodation built for their workers."

The Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme came into effect in April 2007. 

It allows the horticulture and viticulture industries to recruit workers from overseas for seasonal work when there are not enough New Zealand workers.

Lees-Galloway said New Zealand is dealing with a housing crisis. To make sure Kiwis aren't squeezed out of local housing by an increase in the RSE cap, the minister said restrictions will be put in place. 

"This year restrictions will be placed on the further use of residential rental housing by RSE employers to accommodate RSE workers."

In other words, the minister wants employers to provide housing. 

Areas that are deemed to have low housing pressure will be exempted from the restriction.

"I'm confident we've struck the right balance between supporting industry growth and preparing for forecast labour shortfalls."

Unless employers can show they have pre-established relationships with workers from other countries, they may only recruit workers under RSE policy from certain countries. 

  • Fiji
  • Kiribati
  • Nauru
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Samoa
  • Solomon Islands
  • Tonga
  • Tuvalu
  • Vanuatu

People employed under the RSE policy may stay in New Zealand for up to seven months during any 11-month period. 

Exceptions to this are workers from Tuvalu and Kiribati, who can stay for nine months because of the distance from New Zealand and the cost of travel.