New Zealand Immigration changes announced to support Canterbury rebuild

New Zealand’s Immigration Minister, Michael Woodhouse, yesterday announced changes to immigration policy which will make it easier for employers to recruit and retain migrant workers for the Canterbury rebuild.

Minister Woodhouse explained that while the government is committed to ensuring kiwis are at the front of the queue for jobs in the rebuild, there is no doubt that migrant workers have, and will continue to play an important role in meeting the demand for labour.

“Supporting the Canterbury rebuild is one of the Government’s four main priorities and we need to remove barriers to employers recruiting migrant workers when New Zealanders are not available to do the work,” Mr Woodhouse said. “The Government has agreed three immigration policy changes to streamline visa processes and increase labour market flexibility in Canterbury, while reducing the incidence of exploitation of migrant workers.”

Yesterday’s changes will:

  • Extend the maximum duration of Essential Skills visas for lower-skilled occupations from one year to three years for applications received between July 2015 and December 2016;
  • Allow holders of Essential Skills visas (issued from 1st July) working in Canterbury to change employers (within the same occupation) without having to go through the process of applying for a Variation of Conditions on their visa; and
  • Introduce an accreditation scheme for labour hire companies that recruit and employ migrant workers on Essential Skills visas for work in the construction sector in Canterbury.

“Employers who want to retain good migrant workers for lower-skilled jobs will no longer have to go through the uncertainty of applying annually to renew their visa and migrant workers will have the flexibility to move between jobs more easily,” Minister Woodhouse continued.

“These changes will also help reduce occurrences of migrant exploitation by ensuring that labour hire companies seeking accreditation will have to prove they have a demonstrable commitment to training and employing New Zealanders and good workplace practices,” he concluded.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates that an additional 5,000 construction workers will be needed between December 2014 and the peak of the rebuild in December 2016.