Minister of Immigration, Kris Faafoi, has announced the 2021 Resident Visa, a one-off, simplified pathway to residence for around 165,000 migrants currently living in New Zealand.
“We are providing a way forward for our migrant families who have been long disrupted by COVID-19, while ensuring businesses have the certainty they need to plan into the future and continue driving the economic recovery,” Minister Faafoi said.
“The changes give migrants certainty about their future here, allowing them to continue putting down roots, and will help reunite many families who were separated by the border restrictions that prevent COVID-19 entering the community.
“We acknowledge the uncertainty and difficulties COVID-19 and our closed borders have caused our migrant community. We have been carefully working through this residence option to offer certainty they need to truly make New Zealand their home.”
He said the 2021 Resident Visa would also help New Zealand to attract and retain the skills that businesses need to help relieve labour pressures caused by COVID-19.
“This is something employers have asked for and we are delivering. Employers will now have the opportunity to retain their settled and skilled migrant workers, reflecting the critical part they play in our economy, essential workforce and communities.”
Immigration New Zealand estimate the eligible visa holders will include over 5,000 health and aged care workers, around 9,000 primary industry workers, and more than 800 teachers.
“There are also around 15,000 construction and 12,000 manufacturing workers on relevant visa types, some of whom will be eligible for the one-off pathway,” the Minister said.
“These people have all played an important role in keeping our country moving over the last 18 months.”
The 2021 Resident Visa will be available to most work-related visa holders, including Essential Skills, Work to Residence, and Post Study Work visas and their immediate family members.
To be eligible, the principal applicant must have been in New Zealand on 29 September 2021 and must hold or have applied for (and subsequently be granted) one of the eligible work visas. They must also meet one of the following criteria:
- lived in New Zealand for three or more years, or
- earn above the median wage ($27 per hour or more), or
- work in a role on the Long Term Skill Shortage List, or
- hold occupational registration and work in the health or education sector, or
- work in personal care or other critical health worker roles, or
- work in a specified role in the primary industries.
The visa will also be available for those who enter New Zealand as critical workers, and their families, for roles six months or longer until 31 July 2022.
Visa holders can also include their partners and dependents in their application.
Mr Faafoi said the application process for the 2021 Resident Visa was simplified to deal with applications as quickly as possible. Applicants will still need to meet health requirements and pass police and security checks, as is required under the current residence application process, he said.
The Minister said the one-off arrangement for the new 2021 Resident Visa would see the majority of applications granted within a year of the category opening.
“The Government is committed to rebalancing the immigration system for those who can come to work, study and live in New Zealand once our borders re-open. The 2021 Resident Visa is part of this.”
“This initiative addresses that immediate issue while work on the immigration rebalance looks longer term at preparing for the eventual reopening of New Zealand’s borders.
“But our message to industries and employers remains clear; they need to look for ways to build resilient workforces and to attract, train and retain local workers and reduce their reliance on low-skilled migrant labour,” Mr Faafoi said.
Applications for the 2021 Resident Visa will open in two phases; on 1 December 2021 and 1 March 2022.
Immigration New Zealand will contact visa holders who are eligible to apply from 1 December by the end of October with more information about the application process.