Government extends temporary visas for working holiday and seasonal employment by six months, border exceptions for dairy industry

The Government has unveiled changes to onshore visas in what will be a boost for New Zealand employers, the Immigration Minister says.

Working holiday and seasonal employment visas due to expire between now and December will be stretched out for a further six months, the Government announced on Thursday.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi says migrant workers have been the backbone of many industries during the pandemic.

"This will provide employers with an assurance that they can continue to access the current onshore workforce to help fill roles.

"It will also put the minds of visa holders at ease knowing they can stay and work in New Zealand for the foreseeable future.

"We will continue to monitor the border and labour market situations and will extend these visas again if necessary."

The Government says alongside these changes, visa applications will be assessed against the median hourly wage rate of $27 from July 19 - as part of its "once in a generation" immigration reset announced last month. 

"We encourage sectors and employers to think about how to make this shift and look for ways to recruit New Zealanders before turning to temporary migrant workers," Faafoi said.

"The Government recently outlined our long-term vision for New Zealand's immigration system which will involve sectors making a managed transition to new ways of attracting, training and upskilling Kiwis into jobs and investing in productivity measures that will support New Zealand's COVID-19 recovery."

Meanwhile, the dairy sector also gets a boost with border exceptions approved for more than 200 farm workers and vets. Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said these sectors are facing workforce pressures.

"These border exceptions will go a long way towards relieving those pressures," he said in a statement.

But further work needed to be done to ensure there was a strong incentive for New Zealanders to take up entry-level roles and develop careers in dairying, said O'Connor.