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Government visa extension announcement highlights a small win for industry

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The government has announced changes to onshore visas, extending Working Holiday visas and Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) work visas due to expire between 21 June 2021 and 31 December 2021 for another six months.

The Association considers this a small win and has been extensively campaigning to government for visa extensions. This is also included in our key asks to government in our “Reset” campaign. Unfortunately this doesn’t go far enough as Essential Skills work visas will not be extended again.

The government say that the visa extensions are to help manage ongoing labour shortages while New Zealand’s COVID-19 border restrictions remain in place. They have also indicated that they will continue to monitor the border and labour market situations and will extend these visas again if necessary.

While Essential Skills have not been extended, the duration of these visas for jobs paid below the median wage will increase from six to 12 months, taking them back to pre-COVID settings. The implementation of the stand-down period for these jobs will also be further postponed until July 2022.

The Association has also been campaigning for the new median wage rate of $27 be deferred while businesses are still trying to get back on their feet. However, the median rate will rise to this rate on 19 July. This pay rate will determine whether jobs are treated as higher or lower skilled. Employers paying under the median wage can still access migrant workers but will need to check with the Ministry of Social Development to see whether a registered job seeker is available.

Find out more about the Association’s Reset campaign here, and sign the petition to support the campaign today.

What has been announced:

  • Immigration New Zealand will contact all visa holders eligible for the Working Holiday or SSE visa extension by 25 June 2021.
  • Working Holiday visas expiring between 21 June and 31 December 2021 will automatically be extended for six months.
  • SSE work visas expiring between 21 June and 31 December 2021 will automatically be extended for six months with open work rights allowing them to work in any sector.
  • Anyone onshore who has previously held a temporary work visa will still be able to apply for a SSE work visa. New visas granted under this category will be restricted to work in the horticulture and viticulture sectors.
  • The median wage increase will apply to Essential Skills work visa applications, as well as Skilled Migrant Category residence applications and the Other Critical Worker border exception category.
  • The implementation of the stand-down period is being further postponed until July 2022. The stand-down period requires people on lower-paid Essential Skills work visas to leave New Zealand after a certain amount of time before they can apply for another lower-paid work visa.

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