NZ tightens visa belt in view of unsustainable migration

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New Zealand has tightened work visa requirements in response to what authorities have called unsustainable migration levels, say authorities.

Low-skilled applicants now have to fulfil English-language requirements and are allowed to stay on for three years instead of five.

„Getting our immigration settings right is critical to this government’s plan to rebuild the economy”, said Immigration Minister Erica Stanford.

THis comes as near-record 173,000 people migrated to New Zealand last year, with the surge in migration starting at the end of 2022.

At the same time, New Zealanders have been moving out of the country – often to its more prosperous neighbour, Australia. Last year, for example, New Zealand saw a record loss of 47,000 citizens.

Australia, which has also seen an influx of immigrants, announced in December that it will halve its migration intake by tightening visa rules for international students and low-skilled workers.

Under the tightened rules, applicants for most work visas in New Zealand now have to fulfill requirements for skills and work experience.

Employers are responsible for ensuring that migrants meet the specified requirements before offering them a job.

Authorities have also decided to cut earlier plans to add 11 roles, such as welders, fitters and turners, to the list of occupations that would qualify for a fast track to residency.

„We need to ensure that New Zealanders are put to the front of the line for jobs where there are no skills shortages”, said Stanford.

New Zealand’s immigration system had been closed „at a time when employers were looking for workers [during the pandemic]… and then Labour opened the floodgates just as the economy was starting to slow,” Prime Minister Luxon, who leads the conservative National Party, told Radio New Zealand in December.

Some policymakers have warned that the new arrivals may further drive up rents and house prices. The Australian government, in comparison, has been under pressure from some quarters to temporarily reduce migration to help ease Australia’s housing crisis and infrastructure woes.

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