Temporary workers whose visas were due to expire at the end of this year have had their visas extended by six months, the Government has announced.
This will benefit close to 16,500 Essential Skills and Work Residence visa holders, currently in New Zealand.
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has also revealed the Government is shifting the stand-down period by six months – this will impact 600 lower-skilled work visa holders.
This means temporary migrants will be able to remain in New Zealand for a further six months after their stand-down would have taken effect.
"This will provide some immediate relief and certainty for migrants and employers in the short term while they recover from the impact of Covid-19 and adjust to the changing labour market conditions where more New Zealanders will be available for work," Lees-Galloway said.
He added that migrant workers who are subject to the 12-month stand-down period were going to have to leave New Zealand this year.
But, as a result of the changes, the workers will now be able to stay for the duration of the extension.
Galloway said the new rules would assist employers to make the most of the available workforce, both New Zealanders and temporary migrants onshore in New Zealand.
Meanwhile, Lees-Galloway urged employers to focus on longer-term workforce planning and recruitment and training of New Zealand jobseekers.
"These short-term changes give employers some time to get ready for a changing labour market where more New Zealanders will be looking for work."
He said the new low-skilled work visas will only be granted for six instead of 12 months.
This is because the Government's priority was to "preserve and prioritise future job opportunities for New Zealanders".
It would also give the system more flexibility to respond to labour market developments.
Lees-Galloway said the Government was continuing to work on a number of changes, which were announced pre-Covid-19.
These changes include a different way to define lower-skilled/lower-paid employment and a new process for employer-assisted work visas expected to be fully in place by mid-2021.
"With more New Zealanders looking for work, some employers will need to adjust to a new situation.
"With the short-term changes we are making, however, there is some lead-in time for employers."