AUCKLAND (Sachin Sharma): The employers in New Zealand are quite perplexed these days as the September 25 extension to visas expiring between April 2 and July 9, approaches near.
Due to COVID - 19 and lockdown to contain its spread, anyone in the country with a work, student, visitor, limited or interim visa, with an expiration date between this period was given until September 25 to renew their visa.
There are around 350,000 temporary visa holders in the country at present and more than 200,000 of them had work visas. .
Temporary residents who were overseas when their visas expired had not been granted the automatic extension, and would also need to reapply.
The government has announced to conduct Labour Market Test against every work - visa application so no existing visas are being renewed or new visas been sanctioned until government was satisfied there was no citizen or permanent resident available to do the applicant's job.
To keep the existing temporary visa holder staff, employers have to re-advertise their jobs, interview applicants and then offer any qualified candidates the position.
They would also need to satisfy Immigration they had done a thorough job and made a genuine effort.
Some of those roles would also require a skills match test, which was another time-consuming and potentially costly process.
The government had fast-tracked the Immigration (Covid-19 response) Amendment Act, to allow a 12-month time frame to impose, vary or cancel conditions for groups of temporary visa holders, including the ability to extend expiry dates and waive any regulatory requirements for certain classes of application.
Those related with businesses dependent on temporary migrant workers say they are not clear what plan the government has?
Association for Migration and Investment chair June Ranson has said that employers were desperate for an answer on the looming deadline, and were concerned the government was delaying visa decisions for political reasons.
"We're saying, what is the plan ahead? We've got silence, we haven't got a plan," Ranson said.
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, however, said he was taking a cautious approach to using those temporary powers, which would expire next May.
"We are working through our possible options and I anticipate making announcements about those in the very near future."
He cautioned that migrants need to be realistic about what opportunities will be available amid growing unemployment.
"We always put New Zealanders at the front of the queue for jobs, and so people will need to look carefully at what is going on, what the prospects look like, and obviously make decisions for themselves about what's right for them," the minister said.
Ranson said the delay in making a decision was becoming critical for some businesses.
The sectors which are heavily dependent on migrant workers will bear the brunt of situation. For example, the diary sector people are quite concerned if migrants are not available. Similarly, hospitality sector has temporary migrants in low - skilled jobs and might need to replace large of staff.
"Well some businesses are going to have shut down, because they can't get labour," said Ranson.