The results of the election suggest that next year will be very interesting for the migrant community.
As predicted, (New Zealand First Leader) Winston Peters is Kingmaker.
For 21 years, he has pushed the anti-migrant platform, and we can expect that any coalition deal New Zealand First makes – whether with Labour or National – will include some attempt to curtail immigration numbers.
However, both major parties promised large-scale infrastructure works in this election. These projects would place enormous pressure on the market that could only be relieved by labour and skills from offshore.
Already many employers have discovered that the skills shortage has just become plain labour shortage, and they are struggling to fill essential positions. I predict greater pressure on the government from employers for work visas.
Therefore, I speculate that any coalition deal will put some restraint on New Zealand First efforts to cut migration numbers.
Several legislative changes this year already make it more difficult for migrants to live and work in New Zealand. Dramatic changes to residence visa rules have reduced the number of people who qualify for residence.
Time restrictions coming
And major changes to work visa rules have tightened time restrictions on how long migrant workers can stay.
Many migrants, particularly in the lower-paid restaurant industry, will have to apply for repeated one-year work visas until being forced to leave the country after three years. Some will also find it much more difficult for bringing spouses and children with them to New Zealand.
These changes are likely to discourage people from accepting jobs in New Zealand, putting further pressure on the labour market.
Employers must develop new pathways for skilled migrant workers to obtain residence. They will need to familiarise themselves with the new rules to establish how long their workers will be able to stay in New Zealand so they can plan their human resource capability over a business cycle.
We have created a free online resource for employers to help them through the issues of employing candidates like this, and we predict the demand for this information will increase tenfold this year.
Practical advice needed
People coming to New Zealand for work with a view to migrating permanently will also need good practical advice to avoid errors and unexpected surprises along the way.
Migrants and employers both need expert guidance to ensure the new rules can work for them.
The issues are not insurmountable, but would be essential to have experienced advocates looking after you.
Aaron Martin is one of New Zealand’s most highly regarded and experienced immigration law practitioners. He has extensive experience assisting individuals, SMEs, and large multi-national corporate clients. He is Principal Immigration Lawyer at New Zealand Immigration Law.