'No COVID excuse' for skilled migrants to be living in uncertainty - National MP Erica Stanford

National MP Erica Stanford is criticising the Government for leaving skilled migrant workers living in uncertainty - with a growing list of applicants sick of being in the residency queue.

Residency applicants have told The Project of being stuck in limbo - which is starting to take its toll.

"I am on an essential skills visa," skilled migrant Brian Wainwright said. "I've been in New Zealand for 17 months and I'm leaving in September… just tired of not hearing anything, tired of all the declines for my family to come over. I just can't carry on living alone."

There are currently 29,429 people stuck in the New Zealand residency queue and another 22,273 on the waiting list just to go on that queue.

"There's no transparency," Wainwright said. "There's no roadmap as to where anything is going… we have no idea."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said the Government has "tried" to mitigate against the impact of New Zealand's border being closed due to COVID-19. 

Stanford, National's Immigration spokesperson, said New Zealand desperately needed skilled workers - and they came here expecting to get residency in a reasonable amount of time.

"That was frozen in March last year," she told The Project. "So of course, without any certainty as to their futures, we've got people like teachers, engineers and doctors saying, 'well actually, I can take my skills elsewhere,' and they are."

While migrants being split from their families was a product of COVID-19, Stanford said the situation had reached a "crisis point".

"COVID has very little to do with the residency backlog - that's been building up since 2018. There's no COVID excuse to be had here when it comes to the residency queues… people have been in limbo for a long time, which is why they're giving up and leaving."

Stanford said skilled migrants should be reunited with their families by now.

"There have been 11,000 [managed isolation] rooms - we could have reunited all of those people. We brought in entertainers and sports teams and The Wiggles and all these other people for our entertainment, and yet we've left our migrants who are here teaching our children and working in our hospitals… without their families for the last 18 months."

The Project asked Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi for an interview but he wasn't available on Wednesday. Earlier this month, he acknowledged the queue was blowing out because "the demand has increased". 

Faafoi said the Government was trying to move quickly.

"The fix for us at the moment is to make sure we can get through those applications as fast as we can."