Visa News
February 27, 2024

Work Visa Changes are Coming

Record migration numbers - changes to work visa policy are on the horizon
Work Visa Changes are Coming

New Zealand reopened the border in July 2022. In response employers were quick to gear up offshore recruitment to fill labour shortages – both skilled and unskilled workers were in short supply.

What followed next was an explosion of work visa applications from migrant workers keen to fill these vacancies. The end result of all this activity is an estimated net migration gain of 126,000 to the year ending December 2023. The “net migration" measure is the number of people arriving (kiwis, residents and someone holding a visa valid for 12 months or more) minus the number of people (kiwis, residents and someone holding a visa valid for 12 months or more) leaving for 12 months or more.

New Zealand faces similar problems to Australia, Canada and the UK where high numbers of temporary migrant workers have led to concerns about the ability to house people, increasing rents, additional pressure on the health and education systems and transport woes. Australia, Canada, and the UK have taken steps to trim back migrant numbers.

What will New Zealand do?

It is not a simple solution to just change the rules and the problem goes away. Many migrant workers hold visas that do not expire before late 2025 and beyond. The number of work visa applications being lodged is declining in response to a tightening job market (less offshore recruitment). At the same time New Zealand still has a chronic shortage of skilled workers (healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, medical specialists being the most obvious).

The Minister of Immigration was recently interviewed by TVNZ on their Q&A programme. We invite you to listen and read the highlights from this interview including commentary on potential work visa changes here.

A government report released this week into the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) scheme has called for change. The Minister of Immigration has announced in response that proposals will be tabled with cabinet in coming weeks. Change is on the way. If you hold an AEWV talk to us now about applying for an extension. Leave it too long and you may end up disappointed.

There are almost 33,000 accredited employers. Over 108,000 AEWVs have now been issued.

While commentators are quick to point out the high net migration gain number (top line) we should be equally worried about the high number of people leaving (bottom line). Around 47,000 kiwis left New Zealand last year with 53% heading to Australia. Demographers point out our nation faces an aging population, declining fertility rates (less babies), a shrinking workforce expected to look after those not working (more retirees), and by 2030 a potential population of 6 million. These are difficult issues to work through. Priority number one is to make New Zealand an even better place to live and work to attract highly skilled workers and keep kiwis at home.

You can read more about net migration statistics here.

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