The Government is proposing a major shift in temporary work visas to make it easier for employers to fill gaps and streamline the process.
The announcement was made in Ashburton, where employers are struggling to fill hundreds of vacancies in the labour workforce.
There are 500 jobs in the mid-Canterbury farming town but no one wants them.
"The sense of frustration I am hearing from employers is some of them have actually given up advertising they are finding that for so long it's been so difficult to get employees that they've stopped advertising altogether," Ashburton Mayor Donna Favell told 1 NEWS.
With unemployment at a 10-year low, employers are forced to find staff from overseas and today the Immigration Minister signalled that process is due for an overhaul.
The Government is aiming to simplify the system and make it an employer-led process.
"We will be establishing new shortage skills lists that will better reflect the needs in a region like Canterbury and Ashburton and we want the immigration system to be more responsive to the signals we get from a region," Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway told 1 NEWS.
The impact in Ashburton is likely to be felt in farming and road transport industries, but it will be felt nationwide across tourism, hospitality and aged care nationwide, with a focus on protecting foreign staff.
"We have unfortunately seen some cases of exploitation - we'd like to prevent that exploitation from happening by scrutinising those employers more closely before they have the opportunity to take on the migrant workforce," Mr Lees-Galloway.
Mid-Canterbury locals say something had to change.
"We just need to see lower processing times to get these people through immigration, which means we can get them into work, having trucks parked up is not helpful to the economy or the farmers or anybody," Jonathan Ward of Wilson Bulk Transport said.
"Migrant workers in our community need security and the confidence to know they are going to be here year after year instead of having a one-year visa and then being sent home," Federated Farmers’ Chris Ford said.
The change is likely to mean more work for employers, who will need accreditation.
The proposal is open for public consultation over the next three months.