The Government is extending the essential-skills visa for lower-skilled workers in Canterbury from one to three years, to help meet the demands of the rebuild.
It is estimated an additional 5000 construction workers will be needed between now and next year when the rebuild is expected to peak.
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said he was committed to ensuring New Zealanders were at the front of the queue for the jobs, but migrant labour would continue to play an important role.
He said to reduce the risk of exploitation, migrant workers would be allowed to switch between employers in the same occupation without needing to apply for changes to their visas.
An accreditation scheme would also be introduced for labour hire companies.