NZ Government addresses unsustainable net migration

Beehive, Wellington, New Zealand

The government’s response to the issue of unsustainable net migration involves immediate adjustments to the Accredited Employer Worker Visa (AEWV) scheme, aiming to align New Zealand’s immigration policies with its economic rebuilding goals and to safeguard migrants against exploitation, as announced by Immigration Minister Erica Stanford.

Stanford emphasizes the importance of fine-tuning immigration policies to attract and retain highly skilled migrants in fields with shortages, such as secondary teaching, while prioritizing job opportunities for New Zealanders in sectors without skill shortages.

In 2023, migration figures reached approximately 173,000 non-New Zealand citizens, nearly hitting record levels. To address this, a series of changes are being introduced to the AEWV scheme, aimed at enhancing its effectiveness and ensuring a balanced approach that meets both business needs and broader national interests.

Key adjustments include the introduction of English language requirements for migrants applying for low-skilled level 4 and 5 positions, as well as establishing minimum skills and work experience thresholds for most AEWV roles. Employers seeking to fill level 4 and 5 roles will also be required to engage with Work and Income before migrant approval is granted, and the maximum continuous stay for these roles will be reduced from 5 years to 3 years.

Additionally, the franchisee accreditation category will be discontinued, and businesses under this category will need to apply for worker visas through standard, high-volume, or triangular employment accreditation channels. These changes are intended to enhance the integrity of the scheme and mitigate risks of migrant exploitation, in line with recommendations from the recent Bestwick review.

By implementing an English language requirement, migrants will be better equipped to understand their rights and address any concerns about their employers promptly. Furthermore, plans to add 11 roles to the Green List, including welders and fitters and turners, are no longer being pursued. Similarly, the Work to Residence pathway for bus and truck drivers will be closed to new applicants, as previous driver shortages have been resolved.

These adjustments mark the beginning of a broader initiative to develop a more agile and sustainable immigration system, capable of managing net migration, adapting to economic shifts, attracting top talent, revitalizing international education, and effectively managing risks, Stanford concludes.