Working holiday makers currently in New Zealand can avail a 12 month extension to boost industry workforce shortages.

Thousands of migrant workers in New Zealand working in sectors including tourism and hospitality have applied to extend their Essential Skills visas in an effort by the government to help businesses retain existing staff.

More than 18,000 workers who opted to remain in New Zealand during the pandemic have been able to complete a streamlined application process to extend their visas by a year to 24 months to enable them to remain with their employer and help to alleviate the existing skills crisis.

The change applies to Essential Skills visa holders earning below the median wage, whereas those earning above the median can already avail a three-year visa under the same conditions. Further, employers do not need to complete a labour market test for workers intending on keeping the role they currently hold. For empty roles, a labour test does need to be completed to prove no native New Zealanders are applying for a role and a business wishes to hire a migrant worker.

The move will help employers retain workers currently holding roles across many vital sectors, including tourism.

New Zealand Minister for Immigration, Kris Faafoi, said the changes complement the recent extensions granted to 10,000 workers currently in the country on Working Holiday and Supplementary Seasonal Employment visas. The move also follows an effort by New Zealand to restart the processing of Working Holiday Maker visas for nationals from 14 countries, provided they were in Australia at the time of their application.

“We recognise the ongoing labour demand pressures faced by some sectors and we want to make the most of the skills we have in the country. So, the government is making it easier for businesses to continue employing their current migrant workers,” Minister Faafoi said.

Tourism Minister, Stuart Nash, said pandemic support introduced by the government was designed to help keep employers connected to their workforces.

“The decision to extend Essential Skills visas and simplify application processes is the next step and will be welcomed by sectors like tourism and hospitality where employers are keen to retain their current migrant workers,” Minister Nash said.

New Zealand Minister for Tourism, Stuart Nash.

The move has been welcomed by Tourism Industry Aotearoa, saying many employers will be pleased with the decision.

“Tourism businesses from accommodation and hospitality to transport and activity operators are facing real challenges in filling vacancies,” said Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) CEO Chris Roberts.

“Employers don’t want to lose the great people they already have. And today’s announcement gives skilled and trained migrant workers who have chosen New Zealand as their temporary home some security.”