Immigration Minister Chris Fafoi. Photo / Mark Mitchell
About 165,000 migrant workers and their families stranded here during the pandemic will be offered single-use residency road visas.
Immigration Minister Chris Fafoi made the long-awaited announcement this morning which he says will bring certainty to these migrants and their families and New Zealand businesses so they can plan for the future.
“The changes here give migrants certainty about their future, allow them to continue to put down roots, and help reunite the many families torn apart by border restrictions that allowed Covid-19 to enter the community. were banned from entering.
“We recognize the uncertainty and hardship that COVID-19 and our closed borders have caused our expat community.
“We are working carefully on this residency option to make sure they really get what they need to make New Zealand their home.”
The single resident visa will create a pathway for residency for around 165,000 migrant workers and their families, including more than 5,000 health and elderly care workers, around 9,000 primary sector workers and more than 800 teachers.
There are also around 15,000 manufacturers and 12,000 workers in the manufacturing sector with the relevant visa types, some of whom will be eligible for the single path.
This will involve a streamlined application process that will require meeting health, police and safety criteria and most applications will be received within one year of the category opening.
“All of these people have played an important role in the advancement of our country over the past 18 months,” said Fafoi.
“The 2021 resident visa will also help us attract and retain the skills our businesses need to help them overcome workforce pressure from COVID-19.
“This is something that employers have asked for and that we are delivering.
“Employers will now have the opportunity to keep their migrant workers settled and skilled, reflecting their vital role in our economy, our essential workforce and our communities. “
Faith has been under pressure for months after the government stopped processing residency applications in March of last year, and again this year on expressions of interest.
The residency queue has more than 30,000 applications and is followed by 11,400 other expressions of interest, including 26,000 workers and their families.
Many of those who came here on work visas but remained stranded are leaving the country, including nurses and intensive care doctors.
The single residence visa route was accidentally posted on the Immigration New Zealand website on Wednesday, fueling speculation that an announcement was imminent.
National Immigration Party spokeswoman Erica Stanford said the policy seemed similar to her party’s policy of providing a “COVID contribution visa” route.
“It’s a very good thing, just a year too late.”
She said the minister had no choice but to offer residency to anyone stranded here, which was part of his broader national policy.
“The minister has gotten into a corner with these huge queues of inaction over the past three years. There really is no choice but to expedite these applications and organize and quickly open the expression of interest process.
“People with essential work visas are moving in large numbers to places like Canada that offer a means of residence, while there is no certainty here.”
Immigration Advisor Ben D’Ethe of the Immigration Law and Recruitment region works primarily with farming communities that are struggling to move workers to places like Canada that offer residency, and said the announcement was “long in coming”.
He said the catalyst for change was likely “an exodus of nurses during a pandemic”.
“It will be completely overwhelming and overdue.”
The visa will be available to most holders of work-related visas, including those with essential skills, work-residence and post-study visas and their immediate family members.
To be eligible, the lead applicant must be in New Zealand as of today, September 29, 2021 and hold or apply for one of the eligible work visas (and must be granted later).
They must also meet one of the following criteria: have lived in New Zealand for three years or more; earn above-average wages ($ 27 an hour or more); work in a role on the list of long-term skills shortages; Professional registration and work in the health or education sector; work in personal care or other important health worker roles; or work in a specified role in primary industries.
The visa will also be available to those entering New Zealand as essential workers, and their families, for roles of six months or more until July 31, 2022.
Visa holders can also include their partner and dependents in their application.
Fafoi said the new visa “is part of rebalancing the immigration system for people who can come to work, study and live in New Zealand.”
“This initiative addresses this immediate problem, while working on rebalancing immigration seems long term in view of reopening New Zealand’s borders.
“But our message to industries and employers is clear; they must build a resilient workforce and seek ways to attract, train and retain local workers and reduce their dependence on low-skilled migrant workers.
Applications for the 2021 resident visa will open in two phases; December 1, 2021 and March 1, 2022.
Immigration New Zealand will contact eligible visa holders.