Planned New Zealand immigration changes face criticism

A host of business leaders and immigration lawyers have told Radio New Zealand that planned immigration crackdowns in the country are too severe.

Under planned proposals to change work visa policy, the government wants all companies to undergo accreditation before they can recruit an immigrant.

However, the immigration advisers’ group, the Association for Migration and Investment (AMI), has told Radio New Zealand that accreditation being made compulsory would compound existing delays to hiring foreign labour.

“Firstly, the employer who wants to employ a migrant, will have to have made an application to become what is known as an accredited employer,” explained June Ranson, chair of the AMI.

“Now the fact that Immigration aren’t currently able to keep up with the volumes of applications going through – we can see the processing of an accreditation application stretching out to at least be three, four, five, six months. So, you couple this with the fact that then an application is made for a work visa, employers could be waiting, eight, nine months. And that’s not viable, it can’t work.”

Ranson’s fears are shared by Alan McDonald, general manager of the Employers and Manufacturers Association.

“”At the moment you don’t have to become an accredited employer if you’re only going for one or two employees and a year,” he explained. “But that’s going to change so all employers who want to bring in immigrant workers will have to get accreditation.

“If you’re a small business, going to the market once a year or for one worker over a two or three year period, and you’ve got to get accredited and the accreditation is already taking two months, and you’re bringing in all these other employers into the scheme that’s going to create significant delays so we have some real concerns about that.”

While many of the organisations acknowledge that some form of accreditation is necessary, they would like the length of time work visas are valid for to be extended to make the process more worthwhile, and not tied to a single employer.

At the moment, employees can only work for a specified employer at a particular location. But it is argued by some that if work visas allowed an immigrant to work in a specified region and profession then they would be able to change jobs and speak out about exploitative employers.

The NZ government has said it wants to ensure work visas reflect genuine skills shortages, take serious action on migrant exploitation and help regions get the skilled workers they need.

Article published 17th April 2019