As the world moves to speed up their economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, the race to attract and retain global talent will continue to accelerate as countries and businesses compete for the best and brightest.
New Zealand’s immigration settings will play a key role in driving productivity, sustainable growth and innovation to support our recovery. If New Zealand wants the best international talent, we need to be the best on immigration. National has a plan to put New Zealand in the best position to attract and retain the talent we need to grow.
Our immigration system has become a shambles over the past few years; huge delays in processing visas resulting in a years-long backlog of residency applications, a frozen Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) visa Expression of Interest (EOI) pool leaving migrants stuck in limbo, entirely avoidable labour shortages in some of our most critical industries, and above all a Minster who seems utterly uninterested in fixing any of these issues.
Many migrants – our doctors, teachers, engineers, construction workers and nurses – are fed up and are leaving. That means longer wait times at hospitals, larger class sizes for your children, and longer delays to get houses built. It also means more pressure on the already soaring cost of living in this country, as labour shortages flow through to further price increases, hitting Kiwis in the back pocket.
A National Government would fix our broken immigration system and ensure New Zealand communities can benefit from all the world has to offer.
By urgently addressing the residency backlog, offering a Covid Contribution pathway to residency, and decoupling works visas from specific employers, we can clear the decks and start again with a system that works for New Zealand.
National’s plan will solve the immigration crisis in three steps:
1. Open EOI pool and clear the residency backlog
The EOI pool for SMC visas has been closed since March 2020. This means skilled migrants who are already in New Zealand are effectively blocked from applying for residency. There are currently 1,000 nurses and doctors languishing in this pool, along with 500 school teachers. Many are giving up and are starting to leave.
The blow out in visa processing times since 2018 has also created a backlog of residency applications. Processing times have ballooned to an unprecedented 27 months. These delays are creating huge uncertainties for businesses and migrants.
Properly resource Immigration New Zealand (INZ) and instruct them to urgently address the backlog and restore the reputation of New Zealand’s immigration system.
Reopen the EOI pool and process these visas with urgency so we don’t lose our critical skilled migrants to other countries.
Allow those onshore applicants in the EOI pool who have aged out to remain eligible for residence.
2. Create a pathway to residency for those who stuck with us during COVID
We need to offer the skilled migrants who are already here a pathway to residency. These are our dairy farm workers, aged care workers, truck drivers, construction workers and hospitality staff who have helped keep New Zealand open for business through the pandemic.
These people are in New Zealand because we had a skills shortage and we asked them to come. But now the Government is effectively forcing these skilled migrants to leave the country through its neglect of our immigration system, while at the same time trying to find space in MIQ for other foreign workers to replace them. It is madness in a time of skill shortages and an MIQ system that doesn’t even have enough space for returning New Zealanders.
We can’t afford to lose any more doctors, engineers, teachers and IT workers because they have no certainty around when they can become a resident. These people have played a pivotal role in getting New Zealand through the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
National would create a ‘Covid Contribution Visa’, a three-year work visa for people who have been here since the pandemic hit.
This visa would mean migrants no longer have to keep reapplying for the same work visa each year. This would not only reduce the pressure on Immigration New Zealand, but would provide these valuable migrants with the time and certainty needed to apply for residency.
3. Decouple visas from a specific employer to stop migrant exploitation
While the vast majority of employers in New Zealand treat their staff well, there are sadly some cases where migrants are taken advantage of because their visa conditions mean they are bonded to a specific employer. Even if these cases are rare, they can tarnish entire sectors and may even discourage some workers from wanting to move here.
Rather than bonding migrants to specific employers, a smarter approach is to bond them to specific sectors or even regions. This would reduce the scope for migrant exploitation, ensure the right skills are available in the regions that need them, and make our immigration system work better for the needs of our economy.
National will decouple visas from a specific employer and instead bond people to sectors and/or regions.
National understands that we need a fair, transparent and effective immigration system that ensures New Zealand benefits from all the world has to offer. As a country with a strong immigrant tradition, we would ensure New Zealand regains its status as an attractive destination globally.
New Zealand should be one of the most attractive destinations in the world for migrants to bring their skills to. Our immigration policies should support New Zealand’s long-term sustainability, economic competitiveness and international standing.