Working holiday and supplementary seasonal employment visas due to expire between June and the end of December will be extended for another six months, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has announced.
He said the extension of the about 10,000 visas, set to expire between June 21 and December, will help manage ongoing labour shortages while the border remains closed.
Faafoi said SSE visa workers would be given open work rights as well, which will allow them to work in any sector.
"This will provide employers with an assurance that they can continue to access the current onshore workforce to help fill roles," he said.
"It will also put the minds of visa holders at ease knowing they can stay and work in New Zealand for the foreseeable future."
Although essential skills work visas would not be extended again, Faafoi said the duration of these visas for jobs paid below the median wage would increase from six months to 12 months.
This takes them back to pre-Covid-19 levels, he explained.
The implementation of the stand-down period for the jobs would also be further postponed until July 2022, Faafoi announced.
"These changes will provide more certainty to workers and their employers that workers whose skills are still needed can remain in New Zealand, subject to labour market testing to prove there are no New Zealanders available to fill the role if an employer wants to support a work visa application," he said.
"The visa extensions and deferral of the stand-down period are temporary measures and reflect the Government’s commitment to support employers and sectors facing workforce shortages while our border restrictions remain in place.
"This approach is in line with the overall objective of new temporary work visa reforms that are designed to ensure New Zealanders are prioritised for work opportunities."
Alongside these changes to essential skills work visas, from July 19, visa applications will be assessed against the updated median hourly wage rate of $27.
This pay rate will determine whether jobs are treated as higher or lower paid.
Employers paying under the median wage can still access migrant workers, but will need to check with the Ministry of Social Development to see whether a registered job seeker is available.
Immigration New Zealand will contact all visa holders eligible for the working holiday or SSE visa extension by June 25.