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New Zealand relaxes rules on visa program to attract skilled workers

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The New Zealand government unveiled changes to its employment visa program on Sunday, April 7,  aiming to attract more skilled workers and foster a sustainable immigration framework.

This comes as a response to the growing skills gap in the country.

Immigration Minister, Erica Stanford, stressed the necessity of a more intelligent immigration system that not only regulates net migration but also adjusts to the changing economic landscape.

Stanford outlined the objectives of the reforms, which is to attract only top talents, revitalize international education, ensure self-sufficiency, sustainability, while improving risk management.

The critical updates to the visa program involves implementing an English-Language prerequisite and reducing the maximum continuous stay for specific lower-skilled roles under the Accredited Employer Worker Visa.

Employers will need to make sure that migrants meet these requirements before hiring them, and will be required to declare that no “suitable and available New Zealander” applied for a job before it is offered to a migrant.

They must also advertise job postings for at least 21 days and declare “why any New Zealanders who applied were not hired,” according to New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Some roles in the transport and care sectors will be exempt from these requirements, according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website.

Here are the amendments to the Accredited Employer Worker Visa Program:

Implementation of English Language Requirements for Low-Skilled Roles

Prospective migrants aiming for positions at levels 4 and 5 with lower skill levels must now meet specified English language proficiency standards.

This criteria ensures improved communication and integration within workplaces and the wider community.

Establishment of Minimum Standards for Skills and Work Experience

These changes include minimum standards for skills and work experience which is now mandated for all incoming labor. The aim is to ensure a higher caliber of workers entering the nation to meet New Zealand’s evolving economic demands.

Collaboration with Work and Income for Level 4 and 5 Roles

Employers seeking approval for level 4 and 5 positions must now engage in consultation with the Work and Income department.

This requirement ensures a thorough assessment of the labor market and facilitates better alignment between job vacancies and local workforce availability.

Reduction in Maximum Duration of Continuous Employment

The maximum tenure for low-skilled roles at levels 4 and 5 has been shortened from 5 years to 3 years.

This change fosters turnover in the job market, prevents exploitation, and encourages both migrants and locals to pursue opportunities for skills enhancement.

Elimination of Franchisee Accreditation Category

Franchisee accreditation is now discontinued, necessitating businesses to adhere to standard accreditation procedures for hiring foreign workers. This measure ensures fairness and consistency in the recruitment process while safeguarding the rights of both employers and employees.

The changes can be studied in more detail here

Migration Statistics

Last year, migration in New Zealand surged to nearly 173,000 non-New Zealand citizens, approaching a record high, as the country’s population currently stands at around 5.1 million.

Although recent statements from the central bank have alleviated concerns about an imminent interest rate hike, earlier warnings highlighted potential inflationary pressures resulting from the population surge.

Experts say the increased demand for housing and rental accommodation could exacerbate inflationary trends.


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