Hon Iain Lees-Galloway
Minister of Immigration
17 September 2019PĀNUI PĀPĀHO
Strictly embargoed to 1pm Tuesday 17 September
Helping regions fill skills shortages while ensuring Kiwis come first
The Government is making progress on building an inclusive, sustainable and productive economy by helping regions and
businesses get the workers they need with a new temporary work visa process, announced today by Minister of Immigration
This will assist around 25-30,000 businesses get the workers they need to fill skills shortages. Currently there are
over 54,000 workers on the main employer assisted work visa – the essential skills visa.
In December 2018 – March 2019, the Government consulted on a number of changes to employer-assisted temporary work visa
settings. A total of 947 submissions were received from the public during consultation.
“We are committed to ensuring that businesses are able to get the workers they need to fill critical skills shortages,
while encouraging employers and regions to work together on long term workforce planning including supporting New
Zealanders with the training they need to fill the gaps,” says Iain Lees-Galloway.
“The new employer assisted temporary work visa process is more streamlined and less complex replacing six visa
categories with one temporary work visa, and it ensures there is an employer check, a job check and a worker check.
“The process allows us to ensure foreign workers are only recruited for genuine shortages, helps us reduce exploitation,
and creates better connections between immigration, education and welfare systems.
“The employment and training of New Zealanders, where they are available, will always be the key priority which is why
we are introducing more requirements and incentives for employers to employ and train more New Zealanders.”
Changes to the employer-assisted temporary work visa system include:
• introducing a new employer-led visa framework that will drive the application process
• negotiating and introducing sector agreements ensuring there is more planning for future workforce needs
• reinstating the ability for lower-paid workers to bring their families to New Zealand
• replacing existing skills bands with a simple remuneration threshold aligned to the median wage
• for hgher paid jobs, replacing the current set of skills shortage lists for cities and open access for regions.
• strengthening the labour market test for lower-paid workers.
“The new visa system will require all employers to be accredited and will give employers more certainty about their
ability to hire a foreign worker earlier in the application process,” Iain Lees-Galloway says.
“It will also provide the foreign worker with more assurance about the employer they are coming to work for and the job
they are coming to do.
“Sector agreements will be targeted at sectors with high reliance on temporary foreign workers and will enable specific
terms and conditions for recruiting foreign workers to be negotiated between the government and individual sectors.
“A regional approach to the labour market test will ensure that foreign workers are able to be recruited for genuine
skill shortages in regions with lower numbers of New Zealanders available for work, while ensuring that the labour
market is tested regularly in areas with higher availability of New Zealanders.
“Together, these changes represent a significant shift in the way our temporary work visa system operates. It will make
the process of hiring a foreign worker easier and more straightforward. It will also provide more certainty for
employers due to upfront checks, while also increasing expectations on employers to train and employ more New
“These changes are part of the Government’s wider programme of workforce improvements, including the changes to
vocational education and upcoming welfare reforms, which together will help create better connections between the
immigration, education and welfare systems.
“The recently announced Regional Skills Leadership Groups will also play a key role in ensuring there is better planning
and utilisation of the local labour market by coordinating labour market planning at a regional level.
“This will help determine immigration settings for each region and get more New Zealanders into better jobs with better
wages and equip more businesses with the skilled workers they need to grow and thrive,” Mr Lees-Galloway says.
More information on the changes can be found at www.immigration.govt.nz/work-visa-changes