Woodhouse softens migration rules after employer revolt

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has announced a slight weakening of new rules aimed at discouraging low-skilled temporary migrants after employers complained they would not be able to find enough workers to grow their businesses.

Woodhouse proposed in April that temporary migrants earning less than $48,859 per year would have to leave the country after three years and stay out for a year.

That would have effectively made New Zealand much less attractive for workers on temporary work visas hoping to be become permanent residents, including many in the dairy, horticulture, hospitality, tourism and aged care industries, where wages were mostly significantly less than that threshold.

Woodhouse announced the proposal had been changed to create a new "mid-skills" category of temporary work visa for those working for between $41,538 and the $48,859 per year.

“This means that any migrant earning below $41,538 a year will be considered lower-skilled and will be subject to the stand down periods. Any migrant earning between $41,538 and $73,299 a year in an occupation classified as ANZSCO Level 1 – 3 will be considered mid-skilled, and those earning over $73,299 a year will automatically be considered higher-skilled, regardless of their occupation," Woodhouse said.

“The new mid-skilled remuneration band recognises the fact that these workers are filling genuine skill shortages and are more likely to progress with further skills acquisition or work experience. It also provides more certainty for employers in planning and training their workforce," he said.

“The consultation process also uncovered a misunderstanding around what the changes mean in terms of employers’ ability to continue to access lower-skilled migrants. I want to reassure employers that the changes announced today are not designed to reduce the number of migrants coming in on temporary work visas."

The changes to temporary work visa conditions would be introduced on August 28, Woodhouse said.

He said a second phase of the temporary migration settings would develop ways to further target immigration settings by sectors and regions, "developing proposals to incentivise and reward good employer behaviour, and ensuring that seasonal work visas reflect seasonal work".

Phase two would also look at concerns raised by primary industries that the ANZSCO classifications did not cover some jobs and disadvantaged some lower skilled workers.

Full detail about the new proposals are here.