New Zealand

In 2018, New Zealand received 45 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status), -4.6% compared to 2017. This figure comprises 12.6% immigrants benefitting from free mobility, 20.4% labour migrants, 57.7% family members (including accompanying family) and 9.3% humanitarian migrants. Around 23 000 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 134 000 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants.

China, India and the Philippines were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2018. Among the top 15 countries of origin, South Africa registered the strongest increase (1 200) and the United Kingdom the largest decrease (-500) in flows to New Zealand compared to the previous year.

In 2019, the number of first asylum applicants increased by 18.2%, to reach around 500. The majority of applicants came from China (91), India (66) and Sri Lanka (50). The largest increase since 2018 concerned nationals of India (+66) and the largest decrease nationals of China (-12).

Major changes will continue to be implemented until mid-2021 to the way employers recruit some migrants for temporary work in New Zealand. The new framework will replace six types of temporary work visas and will have three steps: an employer check, a job check and a migrant check. All employers will ultimately need to be accredited before they can recruit foreign workers, with high-volume users of the system being required to demonstrate how they are attracting and retaining New Zealanders. Under the changes, the Work-to-Residence visa pathway is being decoupled from the status of the employer and attached instead to the income of the worker (workers paid more than twice the national median income will become eligible to apply for residence).

Measures to strengthen the labour market test (LMT) include an obligation to state the salary when advertising a vacancy, and narrowing the reasons for which an employer can reject a suitable or trainable New Zealander referred by the Minister of Social Development and recruit a migrant worker instead. The LMT will be removed for high-paid jobs outside the five main cities. In parts of the country where fewer New Zealanders are looking for work, visa conditions for migrants will be more generous. The national median income will become the unique criterion to classify jobs into skilled and lower-skilled (which have to pass the LMT), replacing a complicated skills classification system that does not reflect all occupations and can cause delays in visa processing. All lower-skilled employer-assisted workers will have the ability to support partners and dependent children for the length of their visa, with partners granted a visitor visa and subject to a labour market test should they seek paid employment. Sector agreements are intended to be introduced to facilitate access to lower-skill migrants to certain industries, in return for reducing reliance on their migrant workforce over time. Introduction of sector agreements is currently paused as a result of COVID-19. Industries with a high reliance on migrant workers have been identified for initial negotiations: aged residential care, red meat processing, dairy, forestry, road freight, transport, and tourism and hospitality.

Following the increase in the annual Refugee Quota Programme from 1 000 to 1 500 people per year, taking effect in July 2020, the government has announced new settlement locations and increased funding for settlement support and housing.

The government has piloted an innovative approach to improving social inclusion outcomes for recent migrants, former refugees and international students. It encourages local government to create welcoming and inclusive communities.

On 13 May 2020, a new law was passed to give the Minister of Immigration time-limited (12 months) powers. The Minister may amend existing visa conditions (including extending expiry dates), grant visas without applications, or waive application requirements. The legislation also enables the suspension of visa applications from abroad for up to three months at a time. Visa processing capacity in New Zealand progressively increased from May 2020, with priority being given to resident and temporary visa applications where the applicant is in New Zealand or in capacity to support the government response to COVID-19.

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