Immigration News: May 2022

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On 11 May 2022, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced New Zealand would reopen to all tourists and visa holders at 11:59 pm on 31 July 2022. That is two months sooner than initially planned!

The announcement also included details of the New Zealand Government’s “rebalanced immigration system” to address the country’s immediate skill shortages and speed up the economic recovery from COVID-19.

1. New Zealand fully reopens on 1 August!

New Zealand closed its borders to the world in 2020 and started to gradually reopen to different visa and visitor categories earlier this year.

On the 1st of August or 11:59 pm on 31 July, New Zealand is finally reopening completely for all visitors and visa holders!

Prime Minister Ardern rightly said that this announcement is welcome news for families, businesses and New Zealand’s migrant communities.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash added that bringing the final border opening date forward allows New Zealand to fully reconnect to the world in time for the country’s traditional peak visitor season.

“Our wider tourism sector is on the way to recovery. We will be fully open to the world in mid-winter, traditionally our quietest period for visitors. Bringing forward the date allows prospective travellers to apply for visitor visas well ahead of time before taking the next step to book a flight or a cruise for future travel,” Minister Nash said.

2. Change ahead for international students once New Zealand reopens

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the full reopening of the border is a significant milestone for the educational sector, which can now start to rebuild sustainably. The focus was on volume in the past, but that will change with the focus shifting to value.

To facilitate this shift, Immigration New Zealand will implement these changes:

  • Students in non-degree level courses will not get post-study work rights except where they are studying and working in specified shortages and skilled occupations.
  • For degree-level and other eligible international students, the length of time they can work after their students will mirror the time they study in New Zealand. Masters and PhD students will retain the right to work in New Zealand for up to three years after their studies.
  • Students will also not be able to apply for a second post-study visa in New Zealand.

3. Simplified immigration processes and a new occupation list to benefit skilled migrants and employers

The New Zealand Government has announced a “rebalanced immigration system” that’ll incentivise and attract highly-skilled migrants and simplify immigration processes for businesses.

The cornerstone of this rebalanced immigration is the new Green List that features 85 hard-to-fill roles in construction, engineering, trades, healthcare and tech.

The other key component is the new Accredited Employer Work Visa that comes into effect on 4 July 2022.

“Through the Accredited Employer Work Visa, employers won’t need to provide as much information, can use their own recruitment processes to prove no New Zealanders are available for work, and Immigration New Zealand will endeavour to have these visas processed within 30 days once an employer is accredited,” Prime Minister Ardern said.

One of the critical requirements of the Accredited Employer Work Visa will be that the visa applicant earns at least the median wage. The current median wage is NZD27.76 an hour, and it’s updated once a year.

The wage requirement does affect some industries more than others, but the New Zealand Government is working closely with those sectors to assist with the transition.

Individual workers are also affected, but Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi announced that the Government would extend the visas of around 20,000 visa holders already in the country to ensure skilled workers stay in New Zealand. This extension will be specifically for visa holders with visas expiring before 2023. They’ll either get a six-month extension or a new two-year visa with open work conditions.

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