The last two years have been quite hectic for visa holders as well as lawyers and immigration advisers trying to keep up with the immigration changes which have coincided with a change in approach by the labour government towards what is viewed as ‘skilled labour’ as well as the interim measures and processing changes brought into place by the undeterminable COVID-19 pandemic.


In discussions with Immigration New Zealand policymakers, It has come across that the changes in policy to be brought in this year were to be “the most in 10 years”, these however has been delayed by a hesitance to impose a change in approach towards how skilled labour is viewed in visa processing as well as the unpreparedness of employers to meet a centralised system of accreditation.

The newly appointed Immigration minister Iain Lees Galloway at the time, commissioned a study in November 2017 aiming to follow through on an election promise to crackdown on migrant exploitation. This was coupled with a supposed vision to move towards a more skilled labour force, which employs more New Zealanders and a gradual overhaul of the employer assisted model of reliance on lower-skilled temporary migrant work force to fill in labour shortages where New Zealanders are not willing and/or able to work.

I respectfully submit that this strategy by Immigration New Zealand is not comprehensive as it encounters two issues.

First, this strategy is ignorant of the supposed pathway to residence that has in the past been promoted for offshore student visa applicants and a large majority of students who have completed tertiary qualifications and have been genuinely led to believe that there is a genuine pathway to residence, the path of which is becoming less visible by the day.

Second, the distinction of a high and low-skilled labour force is rather ignorant of many industries such as hospitality, tourism and retail that are always in short supply of workers to fill certain types of roles.

Overall, following the exit of the previous Immigration Minister Iain Lees Galloway, there is definitely a lack of clarity as to the direction that Immigration New Zealand will be taking in the future.

There has been a timid approach taken to tackle migrant exploitation through the introduction of a Migrant Exploitation Visa, which to be honest has confused many and raised more questions than it has answered.

Overall, as a practitioner and in dealing with matters for my clients on a day to day basis I can see that the issue is not on the applicants’ end but rather there is a battle for the definition of the direction in which Immigration New Zealand will be heading and in particular how this organisation will be reacting to circumstances outside of anyone’s control, precisely changes in the labour market due to the post COVID environment and subsequent changes in the labour market.

My take is that the bold policy steps envisioned by policy makers will no longer be able to be implemented at full scale and will have to be diluted and sedated to remain relevant in a rapidly changing labour market.