Border opening, immigration changes




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The Government has brought the border’s total reopening forward to July 31 and has announced major changes to immigration settings hoped to attract overseas construction, engineering, trades, health and tech workers. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the changes by video link, joined by Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi, at a Business New Zealand lunch in central Auckland. The border will be fully open from 11.59pm on July 31, when pre-departure testing requirements will also be dropped. Meanwhile, the Government has set out a new ‘‘green list’’ to replace the skills shortage list. Workers can have their residency applications fast tracked and processed within 30 days if they are filling critical gaps, or within two years, on an accredited employer work visa. ‘‘The green list includes indemand roles like doctors, nurses, midwives, plumbers and electricians,’’ Ardern said. ‘‘Jobs on the green list will be reviewed in 12 months and then every three years.’’ Employers won’t need to provide proof of advertising for these occupations when progressing an accredited employer work visa job check application. Workers from critically understaffed sectors, including psychiatrists and psychologists, veterinarians and surgeons and engineers, will be able to apply for residence from September. Migrants with skills on the work to residence pathway, or those earning twice the median wage, can also qualify for residence after two years on an accredited employer work visa. Other migrants may have pathways to residence through the skilled migrant category, Faafoi said. ‘‘The cornerstone of our rebalance is the new green list which will incentivise and attract high-skilled migrants to New Zealand, by providing a new streamlined pathway to residency for those globally hard to fill roles,’’ he said. ‘‘We know for the sectors this will take time.’’ New sector agreements will be put in place later this year for the care, construction and infrastructure, meat processing, seafood, and the seasonal snow and adventure tourism sectors to provide for a short-term or ongoing need for access to lower-paid migrants. Ardern also announced visa extensions for about 20,000 migrants already in the country, while a full resumption of international education will begin from July 31.