Visa changes must enter all of New Zealand

Kamil Lakshman

Associate Immigration Minister Craig Foss recently made a number of announcements in support of Canterbury rebuild with various changes to immigration policy settings.

The rebuild is said to require 5000 more construction workers in the near future.

New Zealand alone cannot meet this demand and migrant workers will have to fill this gap.

These workers can come through various immigration pathways including those on working holiday, students and people with Essential Skills.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) should have in place proper systems and measures including streamlined visa processes, labour market flexibility and zero tolerance towards migrant exploitation.

Policy Changes

Christine Hyndman, Immigration Policy Manager at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment told a Christchurch Immigration Law Conference in Auckland that the changes would include the following:

The maximum duration of Essential Skills visas for lower-skilled occupations in Canterbury will be extended to three years for applications received between July 2015 and December 2016.  This change will mean increased certainty for employers and employees and reduced cost of doing business with government;

Essential skills visas granted in Canterbury between July 2015 and December 2017 will allow the visa holder to work for any employer in the same occupation (no variation of condition is required);

Holders of current Essential Skills work visas will be able to apply for variation of condition to remove the condition stating the employer on their visa – meaning that they will not have to apply for a variation of conditions to change employer in future. This change will increase flexibility in the Canterbury labour market and make it easier for migrants to leave exploitative employers.

Accreditation Scheme

INZ will introduce an Accreditation Scheme for labour hire companies similar to accredited employers.

They must demonstrate a commitment to training and employing New Zealanders and good workplace practices. Accreditation will be compulsory for companies employing migrants for work in the construction sector in Canterbury to hire Essential Skills work visa holders. This is because some migrants in this sector are more vulnerable to exploitation.

Accredited companies will also receive longer visa durations and faster visa processing.

These changes would be welcome for Christchurch.

Outcome watch

Whether Auckland and Wellington will eventually have the same approach given the new building requirements in Wellington and the building boom in Auckland remains to be seen.

Christchurch will become the most attractive destination for migrant workers.

Kamil Lakshman is a Lawyer & Principal of Wellington based law firm Idesi Legal Limited. She can be contacted on (04) 4616018 or 021-1598803. Email:; The opinions expressed in her article above are her own and not that of Idesi Legal Limited or Indian Newslink. Readers can send their comments to

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