NZKGI New Zealand Kiwifruit orchard picking labour

The New Zealand government has announced around 10,000 working holiday visas and Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) work visas will automatically be extended for another six months.

Due to expire between 21 June 2021 and 31 December 2021, the extensions have been brought in to help manage ongoing labour shortages while New Zealand’s Covid-19 border restrictions remain in place.

New Zealand’s immigration minister, Kris Faafoi, said SSE visa holders will also be given open work rights, allowing 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,” said Faafoi.

“It will also put the minds of visa holders at ease knowing they can stay and work in New Zealand for the foreseeable future.

“We will continue to monitor the border and labour market situations and will extend these visas again, if necessary,” he added.

‘Essential Skills’ work visas will not be extended again, but the duration of the visas for jobs paid below the median wage will increase from six to 12 months, taking them back to pre-Covid settings.

The implementation of the stand-down period for these jobs will also be further postponed until July 2022.

“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,” said Faafoi.

“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,” he added.

Immigration New Zealand said it will contact all visa holders eligible for the working holiday or SSE visa extension by 25 June 2021.