Pre-election Immigration Promises: Do they Look Promising for New Zealand?10 October 2023
Written by Arunima Dhingra – Director of Aims Global, Chair of NZAMI, and Senior Licensed Immigration Adviser #200900407
New Zealand's general election is in full swing. All the parties had been vigorously canvassing the masses – as is the norm, each of them has made an array of promises if voted into power. They pledge to bring about transformative changes to various facets of New Zealand's economic, social, and financial settings.
Prominently featured among these promises are recommendations for the country's immigration landscape. Immigration policies are pivotal to the country's domestic and international standing and can significantly influence voters. With approximately 200,000 additional individuals becoming eligible to cast their ballots – thanks to their residence through the 2021 Resident Visa scheme – the parties are also vying for migrant votes.
The question is, are these promised immigration changes for the better? Do they effectively address gaps in the current framework? Well, the quality of changes depends on their implementation, so we will need to wait and see.
Let's take a closer look at some key immigration-focused policies that parties are planning to enact.
- Parents and grandparents of migrants will get a Parent Visa Boost. This multiple entry visa will be valid for five years, with the possibility of a renewal for another five years.
- The party promises to boost international education. They aim to introduce faster visa processing for those who are willing to pay an increased fee.
- International students will gain more rights to be able to work while they study.
- 90-day employment trial periods for all businesses are to be restored. For those of you who didn’t know, the current government recently removed the 90-day trial requirement for employers hiring migrants.
- An International Graduates Visa will be offered to individuals who have attained a bachelor's degree or higher from any of the top 100 universities in the world in the last five years.
- A Global Growth Tech Visa will be introduced for individuals possessing exceptionally specialised skills who have worked at a leading global tech corporation.
- A Digital Nomad Visa is to be offered to those working remotely for an overseas-based company. Candidates will have the option to apply for a work or residence visa later if they decide to stay.
Full details of National's immigration policy can be found here.
- Parents and grandparents of migrants will receive a 10-year Super Visa that will allow them to make visits lasting between six months and five years. Additionally, they have pledged to clear out the pending applications for the Parent Resident Visa.
- Individuals who have exceeded their visa stay for over 10 years will receive the opportunity to obtain an Amnesty Visa. Supposedly, this is to make good on the Dawn Raids apology from two years ago.
- Labour already announced a few months ago that Accredited Employer Work Visas will change to 5 years instead of 3 years from 27 November 2023, and for those that will not have a pathway to residence in these five years, a standdown period of 12 months will apply, which will require them to leave NZ for 12 months. I addressed this change when it was released; listen to it here.
- They also unveiled a raft of updates, which included 17 new roles to be added to the Green List, changes to the Construction and Infrastructure Sector agreements, and changes to the in-study work rights of international students, among others.
- A Unite Visa will be introduced, which would allow parents to visit their children or grandchildren for up to five years at a time and will be renewable annually.
- Their policy would include an annual fee of $3500, which would go towards funding healthcare costs for visa holders.
- All major immigration policy decisions will be subject to a Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA).
- They propose replacing the current system of temporary work visas with demand-based pricing and making further changes to the Skilled Migrant Category to offer predictable pathways for migrants of all skill levels and occupations.
- They also aim to introduce changes to parent visas and address the extended processing times of Immigration New Zealand (INZ).
ACT's complete immigration policy document can be found here.
- They support Labour's amnesty policy for overstayers.
- On the other hand, they are critical of the 10-year requirement imposed by Labour and want to make amnesty accessible to everyone, regardless of how long they've been in New Zealand.
- They will ensure that work visas will not be associated with a single employer, so as to allow migrants to switch employers easily.
- They promise to introduce "realistic" pathways to residency and prevent exploitation if elected.
- They also plan to undertake work to extend the requirement to be licenced to offshore student agents and ensure proper funding and administration of INZ.
The Green Party's complete immigration policy document can be found here.
As is evident, it’s been a barrage of pledges, promises, and changes close to the day of reckoning. A vast majority of these have been in the pipeline for a long time.
Policies targeting parents and grandparents seem to be the flavour of the season. Legislation on this aspect was long overdue. We in the immigration industry have been clamouring for quite a while to make the transition process smoother for parents who want to join their children in New Zealand. Visas targeting highly qualified and skilled individuals are also a promising prospect for our nation; they will hopefully help bridge the talent gap that has been a perennial issue.
We have just come out of a period of constant change and unpredictability. We have had more changes in the immigration landscape in the last 18 or so months than in my entire 18-year career in this industry.
Those elected to power need to realise that constantly changing policies can have an adverse effect on New Zealand’s international credibility. What we need is a business-as-usual environment that removes any air of uncertainty for migrants and other businesses. We need to give the world reassurance that New Zealand is a dependable destination and ensure that only well-thought-out policies with a short-term plan for long-term goals are introduced. And then let them play out.
As a nation, what we truly require is stability in our immigration settings. Our policies have undergone frequent alterations throughout the years, resulting in a complex amalgamation of various approaches.
Only time will tell how effectively the new ruling party’s policies will be incorporated into the system. We can only hope there are no niggling issues like those with the Accredited Employer Work Visa scheme, where the execution did not align with the goal. As I always say, the devil is also in the details. And in this case, in the implementation of these aspiring changes.
One thing is for certain – no matter the colour of the winning party, the immigration landscape will undergo continued change and evolution.
We run webinars for employers, HR professionals, and recruiters throughout the year where we simplify immigration policies, key updates, and provide handy tips to better navigate the world of immigration. Register here for an individual webinar or the series and stay up-to-date with immigration policies important for your people and your business.