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Immigration Law - what's in-store under the new government?

Immigration Law - what's in-store under the new government?

Immigration Law - what's in-store under the new government?

Wednesday 6 December, 2023

The new government has signalled its intention to make changes to New Zealand’s current immigration policy. Such changes are intended to address labour shortages and attract and retain skilled migrants. While a number of the announcements will be welcome news to migrants and employers alike, there may be disappointment that the proposed changes are not on the checklist of tasks to be completed in the first 100 days.

Family-friendly changes

The coalition agreements set out a number of family-friendly changes to immigration settings. These include:

  • A more flexible visitor visa for parents and grandparents of NZ residents and citizens; and
  • A relaxing of the rules to make it easier for family members of visa holders to work in NZ.

Under the above proposal, a renewable 5-year parent category visa would be introduced whereby applicants are sponsored by their families and are required to have either health insurance, or pay a health levy, during their stay. These changes will address the issue of skilled migrants leaving New Zealand permanently because they cannot easily reunite with overseas family members whilst living and working here.

Accredited Employee Work Visa scheme

The Accredited Employee Work Visa scheme, which was already being reviewed by the previous government, will be “improved” by the new Government although no specific changes have been announced yet. This coupled with an agreed focus on ensuring migrants are only filling genuine workforce needs, may mean that it will be harder for employers to prove that there are no New Zealanders available to fill vacancies. Longer term, the new government wants to investigate establishing an “Essential Worker” workforce planning mechanism to plan for skill or labour shortages. This will be welcome news to many sectors suffering a worker shortage.

Other Proposed Changes

The closing of NZ’s borders during the COVID pandemic has had a lasting impact on the once thriving international education sector. Whilst in Government, National plans to revive the sector by:

  • fast-tracking visa processing for an additional fee;
  • increasing the hours that students can work from 20 to 24 a week; and
  • expanding work rights for students and their partners.

The hope is that these changes will assist New Zealand to regain its standing as a premier education destination and become an attractive option for international students once again.

The National Party campaigned on plans to introduce a series of visas focused on boosting New Zealand’s tech, space and aviation sectors. These visas are aimed at attracting highly educated, specialised people, being candidates of the highest caliber, to work in New Zealand’s growing tech, space and aviation industries. National is hoping that the specialist work, work to residence and residence visas will bring in technical talent to meet chronic shortages in these industries.

The National Party also plans to make the working holiday visa schemes more flexible to help increase the number of workers in the tourism industry.

Whether the National Party’s planned policies survive the ongoing coalition negotiations remains to be seen. What is certain, is that 2024 will likely be another busy year for changes in immigration policy.

If you have any questions regarding any of the proposed policy changes and how they might affect you, please contact one of our experts below.