Immigration law changes set to go ahead

Prime Minister Bill English Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

The government will go ahead with a change to immigration rules forcing migrants to exit the country after three years, despite complaints from the dairy industry.

The government announced in April it was putting planned changes aimed at restricting immigration numbers out for consultation.

Prime Minister Bill English indicated on Monday the government would take another look at some of the changes after feedback through the consultation process.

The changes would have meant any job earning less than $48,000 would no longer be considered skilled, and would restrict skilled migrant visas to three years, after which applicants would have to exit the country and wait 12 months before becoming eligible again.

The government has now confirmed it will go ahead with the 12-month rule, but lower the minimum median annual income limit to $41,000.

However, the dairy sector complained the 12-month rule would make it harder to secure experienced, long-term staff.

Labour’s immigration spokesperson, Iain Lees-Galloway, said the government was just tinkering with what was a bad policy in the first place.

“I think it has the potential to drive down wages,” he said.

“I think using wages as a proxy for skill is a poor approach anyway.

“What we should be doing is focusing on high-skill immigration, filling the genuine skill shortages that do exist in New Zealand.”

The government has promised to see whether work visas can be tailored to address regional skill shortages.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said the government was committed to striking the right balance between ensuring New Zealanders were at the front of the queue for jobs and making sure the regions had access to the temporary migrant labour necessary for sustained economic growth.

“We are also committed to ensuring that lower-skilled migrants are clear about their future prospects in New Zealand, which is why we consulted on a number of changes to temporary work visa conditions.”

The changes to temporary work visa conditions will be introduced on 28 August, alongside the previously announced changes to the Skilled Migrant residence category.


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