Thursday, May 23, 2024

Govt moves to strengthen immigration settings

Immigration Minister, Erica Stanford says immediate changes to the Accredited Employer Worker Visa (AEWV) scheme will ensure New Zealand is attracting the skills it needs, and reducing the vulnerability of migrants to exploitation.

“Getting our immigration settings right is critical to this Government’s plan to rebuild the economy,” the Minister said.

“The Government is focused on attracting and retaining the highly skilled migrants such as secondary teachers, where there is a skill shortage. At the same time we need to ensure that New Zealanders are put to the front of the line for jobs where there are no skills shortages.”

In 2023, migration was 173,000 non-New Zealand citizens – a near record.

“I am bringing in a suite of changes that will improve the AEWV scheme and ensure we are better testing the local labour market and reducing the risks of putting New Zealanders out of work. Many of these are not new, but rather a return to pre-pandemic settings that better balanced the needs of business with the wider interests of New Zealand.”

“It is important that the AEWV settings facilitate the right mix of skilled temporary migrants to address genuine skill and labour shortages, support rebuilding the economy, and to help manage numbers and pressures on core infrastructure, such as schools, housing, and the health system,” said Minister Stanford.

This suite of changes include:

  • Introducing an English language requirement for migrants applying for low skilled level 4 and 5 roles;
  • A minimum skills and work experience threshold for most AEWV roles;
  • For roles that fall into the level 4 and 5, employers will need to engage with Work and Income before approval to bring in migrants will be granted;
  • Reducing the maximum continuous stay for most level 4 and 5 roles from 5 years to three years;
  • The franchisee accreditation category will be disestablished and these businesses will be to apply to bring in workers from overseas through the standard, high-volume, or triangular employment accreditation.

“These steps improve the scheme’s integrity and will help to prevent migrant exploitation, following recommendations from the recent Bestwick review, which found serious issues with the AEWV processes,” said Ms Stanford. 

“By having an English language requirement migrants will be better able to understand their rights or raise concerns about an employer early.”

The Minister also confirmed the Government is not progressing plans to add 11 roles to the Green List such as welders and fitters and turners.

“The Work to Residence pathway for bus and truck drivers is also closing to new applicants, as the shortages of drivers reported when this was established have been filled.”

“These changes are the start of a more comprehensive work programme to create a smarter immigration system that manages net migration, responds to our changing economic context, attracts top talent, revitalises international education, is self-funding and sustainable, and better manages risk,” she said. 

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