The Government has announced visa changes to allow temporary migrant workers in New Zealand to continue to fill labour shortages. Employers are still expected to genuinely seek to fill job vacancies with New Zealanders.

Employer-assisted work visas extended by 6 months

Employer-assisted visas expiring from 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021 (inclusive) will be automatically extended by another 6 months.

This applies to the following visas:

  • Essential Skills Visa
  • Work to Residence Visa
  • Special and Skilled work visas for China, Indonesia, South Korea, Philippines and Vietnam
  • Special category work visas for Japanese Interpreters and Thai Chefs
  • Employer-specific work visas granted under section 61 of the Immigration Act 2009
  • Fishing Crew Visa
  • Religious Worker Visa
  • Silver Fern Practical Experience Visa

Employer-assisted visas expiring from 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021 (inclusive) will be automatically extended by another 6 months.

Visas held by their partners and dependent children will also be extended.

Visa holders will receive confirmation of the extension from Immigration New Zealand by March 2021.

Lower-paid Essential Skills visa stand-down delayed for 12 months

The introduction of the stand-down period will be delayed until January 2022. The stand-down period means that Essential Skills visa holders earning less than the median wage must leave New Zealand after three years for one year before they can return.

Working Holiday Visas extended by 6 months

Working Holiday Visas that expire from 21 December 2020 to 30 June 2021 (inclusive) will be extended for 6 months. Conditions will be varied to allow the holders to continue in any employment that is not permanent in any sector until their visa expires. Any time limit on total work for one employer will no longer apply.

From 21 December 2020, Working Holiday Visa holders will no longer be transferred to the Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) work visa when their Working Holiday visa expires. Migrant workers already on an SSE Visa can still choose to work in the horticulture and viticulture sectors, or apply for an Essential Skills visa if they find alternate qualifying work.

2019 median wage in effect until July 2021

Immigration New Zealand will continue to use the 2019 median wage of $25.50 to determine visa conditions until at least July 2021, at which point it will rise to $27 an hour.