Kris Faafoi announces immigration changes (Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi)
Kris Faafoi announces immigration changes (Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi)

The BulletinMay 12, 2022

The immigration reset

Kris Faafoi announces immigration changes (Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi)
Kris Faafoi announces immigration changes (Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi)

Borders are open. Yesterday’s announcement also came with changes to immigration designed to attract highly-skilled workers to New Zealand, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in The Bulletin.


Borders will open, pre-departure tests to go 

As expected, the government announced yesterday that the final phase of border reopening will commence from 11.59pm on July 31. Pre-departure tests are on their way out with the prime minister saying they’re confident the tests will be removed by July 31. Justin Tighe-Umbers, executive director of the Board of Airline Representatives of New Zealand, says his members want pre-departure testing gone as soon as possible. The berths are also open for cruise ships to return.

Welcome mat out for highly-skilled migrants

The government also announced changes to our immigration system that have been foreshadowed for a while and billed as a “reset”. When asked what kind of workers we were aiming to attract to New Zealand at the press conference yesterday, immigration minister Kris Faafoi was unequivocal: “highly-skilled” he said. To that end, they have introduced “The Green List”, which is a list of highly-skilled jobs that enable fast-tracked residence pathways. There are two categories though – one includes vets, doctors, engineers and ICT professionals, who can apply for work visas from July 4, and residence visas from September. The other includes professions like nursing, midwifery and teaching, where migrants can apply for residency after two years. Nurses and midwives have labelled the distinction “sexist”.

Two-tier immigration system?

The Green party has criticised the changes saying “the government is effectively entrenching a two-tier immigration system.” Matthew Scott from Newsroom asks where that leaves 54,000 migrants in New Zealand on temporary visas who currently earn less than the wage cap. National’s immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford said the broad brush approach was lazy. “They could be far more nuanced and actually have fair wage rates per industry, per region,” she said. “I think it’s based on an unfair assumption that migrant workers drive down wages which, by the way, the Productivity Commission said actually doesn’t happen.” That’s based on a November 2021 report into immigration from the commission that noted “overall, New Zealand studies find very minor and mostly positive impacts on the average earnings and employment of local workers.” Dileepa Fonseka had an excellent column yesterday on the way immigration has been used as a scapegoat.

International education sector no longer a “backdoor to residency”

There are also changes for the international education sector. Students in non-degree level courses won’t be able to work in New Zealand after graduating unless they apply to fill a skills gap. Students completing undergraduate degrees will be able to work in New Zealand after finishing their degree, but only for as long as they had been studying in New Zealand. Education minister Chris Hipkins said the sector could no longer be “a backdoor to residency” and that the sector, worth $5b a year before the pandemic, needed to focus on “genuine students”.

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 36,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.  

The Bulletin is made possible by Z Energy, proudly supporting local news that matters.

 Check out how they’re delivering New Zealand an alternative fuel future.

Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

Get The Spinoff
in your inbox