11 Sep 2020

Border exception change comes into place

2:35 pm on 11 September 2020

The government has loosened the criteria for overseas workers being allowed through the border.

Minister for Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Kris Faafoi speaks during a media conference at Parliament on 23 April 2020.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi. Photo: 2020 Getty Images

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said the change will allow businesses to access critical staff whose skills are not readily obtainable here.

"As New Zealand continues on the path to recovery from Covid-19, it is important that we strike the right balance between protecting New Zealand from Covid-19 and ensuring businesses have the critical workers they need to help in our recovery," Faafoi said in a release.

"Currently, an individual must have unique experience and technical or specialist skills that are 'not obtainable' in New Zealand. This criterion will change to technical or specialist skills that are not 'readily obtainable' in New Zealand.

"That wording change reflects that, in some fields, there is a very limited pool of experts and significant training would have to be undertaken before the skills were obtainable in New Zealand."

The government will remove the requirement for "the skills, qualifications or work experience to have been gained overseas."

"Removing that requirement will allow entry, in some limited cases, where, for example, a worker has skills which are obtainable in New Zealand but they have unique experience gained overseas which would bring unique expertise to New Zealand businesses," Faafoi said.

"These changes are in response to concerns various sectors have been raising with us and aim to help provide clarity for businesses requesting a border exception for critical workers.

He said the bar for being granted an exemption remains high to limit the spread of Covid-19 and to managed capacity constraints in managed isolation facilities.

"There will still be a number of workers across a range of sectors and businesses who do not meet the criteria to be granted an exception under this 'other critical worker' category.

"That is because any changes must still align with New Zealand's tight Covid-19 border controls to limit the spread of the virus. We also need to continue coordinating the numbers of people coming across the border with amount of capacity available in managed isolation and quarantine facilities to cope."

Faafoi said the changes to the "other critical worker" border exception category instructions will take effect immediately.

It follows a week of announcements allowing temporary workers, some partners and newly-minted residents stranded overseas to come to New Zealand.

He said the government will prioritise making sure New Zealanders who have lost jobs have the opportunity to move into new work.

Employers are welcoming the easing of border restrictions.

Alan McDonald of the Employers and Manufacturers Association said the government had recognised that there was a shallow domestic talent pool in some sectors.

He said executives, engineers and IT staff would be among those who could now qualify.

McDonald said some businesses may say it did not go far enough, although the government was constrained by capacity in border management facilities.

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