Wed, 16 Jun 2021

WELLINGTON, June 10 (Xinhua) -- Changes to onshore visas will provide employers and visa holders with more certainty, New Zealand Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said on Thursday.

Around 10,000 Working Holiday visas and Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) work visas due to expire between June 21 and Dec. 31 will be extended for another six months to help manage ongoing labor shortages while New Zealand's COVID-19 border restrictions remain in place, Faafoi said in a statement.

SSE visa holders will also be given open work rights, allowing them to work in any sector, he said.

"This will provide employers with an assurance that they can continue to access the current onshore workforce to help fill roles," the minister said, adding, "It will also put the minds of visa holders at ease knowing they can stay and work in New Zealand for the foreseeable future."

Faafoi said the government will continue to monitor the border and labor market situations and will extend these visas again if necessary.

Essential Skills work visas will not be extended again, but the duration of Essential Skills 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, he said.

"These changes will provide more certainty to workers and their employers that workers whose skills are still needed can remain in New Zealand, subject to labor market testing to prove there are no New Zealanders available to fill the role if an employer wants to support a work visa application," Faafoi said.

Alongside these changes to Essential Skills work visas, from July 19, visa applications will be assessed against the updated median hourly wage rate of 27 NZ dollars (19 U.S. dollars). This pay rate will determine whether jobs are treated as higher or lower paid. The wage rate was set following public consultation, he said.

The New Zealand's government recently outlined its long-term vision for the country's immigration system which will involve sectors making a managed transition to new ways of attracting, training and upskilling Kiwis into jobs and investing in productivity measures that will support New Zealand's COVID-19 recovery.

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