Government announces more border exemptions, visa changes for specialised workers


The Government has announced more border exemptions and visa changes to help get specialised workers in the country and fill labour shortages in key sectors.

Class exceptions have been established for border entry for a limited number of veterinarians, deep-sea fishing crew, as well as agricultural and horticultural machinery operators.

They are for up to 30 veterinarians, 570 deep-sea fishing crew, and 210 agricultural and horticultural mobile plant operators and will be time-limited.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi says the Government will continue to review border settings and consider class exceptions where warranted.

Faafoi says there are not enough New Zealanders to fill the need for livestock veterinarians and not enough Kiwis with the experience to work on deep-sea fishing ships in the short term.

"In exchange for the border exception, the fishing industry has committed to removing barriers to employing New Zealanders, including reviewing pay structures and business models, and investing significantly in training and education," Faafoi says.

And agricultural and horticultural machinery operators work on highly-specialised equipment, he says.

"Their skills are required urgently to avoid the loss of crop and animal feed that will soon be ready for harvest."

Seasonal work visa available to more people

Immigration policy changes will also be made to help fill labour shortages in horticulture and wine growing.

"These sectors are among a range of industries performing critical roles in supporting New Zealand's COVID economic recovery and generating vital export earnings. So it's important we support them to keep going while ensuring that where there are job opportunities, New Zealanders are given a fair chance at filling them," Faafoi says.

The Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) visa will be automatically given to about 11,000 working holiday visa holders in New Zealand with visas expiring between 1 November 2020 and 31 March 2021.

Employers can take on these workers when there are unfilled Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme spaces with an RSE employer, or there are unfilled roles available with an accredited SSE employer.

Employers will also be able to take on SSE workers for roles in regions specified on a list which the Ministry of Social Development is currently compiling.

Government changes will also enable other work visa holders to apply for an SSE visa if they have a job offer from one of these employers or if the job is on the Ministry of Social Development list.

In addition, all RSE scheme workers stranded in New Zealand who have been granted a more flexible limited visa to be able to work part-time and do non-RSE work will be able to 're-enter' the RSE scheme and work for an RSE employer with 30 hours per week average pay guaranteed.

The changes are for the 2020/21 season only.