8 Jul 2020

Visa extension will only benefit some - immigration adviser

8:31 am on 8 July 2020

New Zealand's temporary workers have been given some breathing space to plan their next move, but it is a different story for those migrants stuck overseas.

Visa and passport to  approved stamped on a document top view in Immigration

File image. Photo: 123RF

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has used his special legislative powers to give certain migrant groups a six-month extension on visas which are set to expire this year.

It covers workers with essential skills and work-to-residence visas, as well as low-skilled workers on three-year visas.

But it doesn't extend to any other type of work visa expiring this year.

There are nearly 350,000 temporary residents in New Zealand, and about 200,000 of them will need to renew or vary their visa over the next year or so.

None of those visas will be renewed unless their employer can prove there is no citizen or resident to do their jobs.

The minister's six-month extension will buy more time for about 17,500 migrants to either sort out their visa or leave the country.

Christiaan Arns from FRENZ Recruitment & Immigration said that wasn't much help to the rest.

"There's a whole range of other visas that are not included," he said.

"Secondly, the [17,500] is only for the period between now and the end of the year. If you were to extend that number ... for the next 12 months you might look at a number that is more like 50,000 - at a guess - or higher".

'The NZ labour market is changing'

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the government must give priority to citizens and permanent residents, although he anticipated there would be further changes.

"The changes that we made to the Act do give me more options and gives the government greater flexibility to respond to a fast-changing environment.

"We'll continue to monitor the labour market, we'll continue to monitor the situation for migrant workers, and if further changes are needed we'll make them."

He did not anticipate making any changes to help migrant workers who were currently out of the country, regardless of their circumstance.

"People have to make their own choices about what is in their best interests but the facts at the moment are that the border restrictions are in place, they are likely to remain in place for a considerable length of time, the New Zealand labour market is changing.

"What we really have to do is make sure we make the most effective use of the people who are here in the country now because those border restrictions are likely to remain in place for the forseeable future.

In addition, Lees-Galloway said, any new visas for low-skilled workers would be scaled back to six-month terms, from one year.