Concern over Government's new immigration changes

New Zealand is throwing out the welcome mat two months earlier than expected, with our border re-opening from July 31.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Aotearoa will be "in demand and fully open" to everyone, including tourists, workers and students.

She also announced a raft of immigration changes. Bosses will more easily be able to hire from a list of professions that have been hard to attract - people like surgeons and doctors, engineers, veterinarians and IT specialists. There will also be tweaks to make it easier for them to become residents.

In areas like tourism and hospitality, bosses will be allowed to pay migrants below the median wage to attract the desperately-needed lower-skilled workers 

International education should be back to normal from July 31, and students will need more money to stay in New Zealand for the duration of their study

All of this means the country will be fully open to the world by mid-winter, including our maritime border with cruise ships able to return from July 31.

Classic COVID-19. The very disease the Prime Minister locked up New Zealand to keep out kept her away from the reopening. 

"I'm having the very 2022 experience of isolating with my family," she said. 

Zooming in over lunch to open the country after two years, a whole "two months ahead of schedule".

The doors will be open at the end of July, but who'll be allowed through is changing.

"We had an opportunity to get smart about immigration here and we've taken it," Ardern said. 

The cornerstone of the reset is the Green List. To go straight to residency you need to have one of 56 very specific jobs - like structural engineers, psychiatrists and vets. Then there is those who have to work for two years and need one of 29 jobs - like midwives, ECE teachers and farm managers.

"A bit too narrow, too prescriptive and by the way isn't this just the long-term skill shortage list kinda dressed up in a different form of drag?" said immigration lawyer Aaron Martin. 

He's actually unimpressed with the whole lot of it.

"There's this internal lack of logic over what they're trying to present and what they're actually going to deliver," he said. 

The Greens are worried for other reasons, that the Government's created a two-tier system by only rewarding high wage workers.

"It kind of feels like we are creating a white immigration policy - whether intentionally or otherwise," said Greens immigration spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said: "We've made no secret that we've wanted to move to a higher wage, higher skill economy".

But just because we're now letting all tourists in, it doesn't mean they can get in. It currently takes five months to process a visitor visa.

"Have we suddenly magicked up 200 workers at Immigration New Zealand?" National immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford asked. "The answer is no. How are we going to process visitor visas, residence visas, tourist visas, worker visas."

No magic needed, says the minister

"We're confident we've got the resources. We've employed about 230 more people to be able to process."

New hires and a new online system has the minister reckoning visas will be verified quickly.

"For visitor visas, we've said 20 working days," Faafoi said. 

Now the countdown's on to see if that's actually the case.