The visa landscape has changed in the South Island following the introduction of Immigration New Zealand’s new policy.
The change will benefit thousands of migrant workers and their families who have been living in the South Island for more than five years but have not been able to qualify for residency under the Skilled Migrant Category.
To qualify under the new policy, candidates must meet the eligibility criteria. This includes being 55 years or younger and meeting health and character requirements. People must also be currently employed in the South Island on an Essential Skills work visa, and have been employed in the South Island on Essential Skills work visas for more than five years (note there is certain flexibility in relation to the time). If candidates fall marginally short of the five year requirement, Immigration New Zealand may consider granting a visa as an exception to instructions.
Lane Neave Immigration Partner, Mark Williams, said the new immigration policy is a massive win for employers and migrant employees in the South Island.
“This is a great policy to transition long term work visa holders who really should be entitled to a resident visa,” said Williams.
“The new policy recognises the contribution migrants have made to the New Zealand economy, assists their employers with longer term retention, and at the same time allows for a conversion to residency following two years on this visa.”
“The new policy will also allow the visa holder’s partner and dependent children under 20 years of age to be included in the application and enjoy benefits of living in New Zealand, such as tertiary education, on a similar basis as many of their Kiwi friends they have grown up with in New Zealand for many years.”
“The children included in the application who have completed compulsory schooling in New Zealand may be granted work visas to allow them to work in the South Island.”
“This will have a positive impact on migrant workers from a range of occupations, in particular, chefs and other hospitality workers who have committed to their local communities for a number of years without the security of an ability to qualify for a resident visa because of the English language requirement under the Skilled Migrant Category.”
“It is also a one-off pathway to residence for a lot of low or mid level-skilled temporary migrants such as hard working farm and trade workers in the South Island.”
“They have made a massive contribution to the South Island, especially the rural sector, and are deservedly being recognised for that contribution.”
“However, like a lot immigration policies it is not simple to interpret and there are a lot of fish hooks to navigate,” Williams added.
People who have been working on visas for at least five years, haven’t been able to qualify under the Skilled Migrant Category, and are committed to staying and working in the South Island should seek professional advice to help navigate the process.