NEW ZEALAND is to fully open its borders in July in an effort to address the immediate skill shortages in New Zealand and speed up the economic recovery from Covid-19.
From 11.59pm on 31 July, the nation's borders will open, and a simplification of immigrations settings will also be introduced.
The controls date back to March 2020, with deaths in New Zealand relating to coronavirus some of the lowest in the world.
While this has been applauded by many, some critics have questioned the impact such measures have had on the economy and the lack of flexibility in compassionate circumstances.
20,000 visa holders with visas expiring before 2023 are also being granted either a six-month extension or a new two-year visa with open work conditions.
Cruise ships will also be able to return with the opening of the maritime border from 31 July, and a full resumption of international education from that date too.
Around 800,000 people in New Zealand have Irish heritage (20% of the population), with many Irish people emigrating to both Australia and New Zealand in recent years.
“New Zealand is in demand and now fully open for business,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement.
“New Zealand’s international border will reopen to all tourists and visa holders two months earlier than planned on 31 July.
“This will be welcome news for families, businesses and our migrant communities. It also provides certainty and good preparation time for airlines and cruise ship companies planning a return to New Zealand in the peak spring and summer seasons.
“We know a major constraint on business is access to skilled labour," she said. "This plan will increase the available pool of labour, while also speeding up our tourism recovery."
The Government has also announced new rebalanced immigration settings which will help businesses access the key skills they need while ensuring wages and working conditions are improved for everyone.
“New Zealand cannot return to pre pandemic trends that saw us overly reliant on growing numbers of lower-skilled workers and resulted in the increased exploitation of migrants,” Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said.
A new Green List plans to incentivise and attract high-skilled migrants to New Zealand by providing a new streamlined pathway to residency for those globally hard-to-fill roles.
The list features 85 hard to fill roles including construction engineering, trades, health workers and tech.
“Our rebalanced immigration system will be simpler, reducing categories, bringing more online accessibility and streamlining application processes for businesses," Mr Faafoi said.
“Through the Accredited Employer Work Visa, employers won’t need to provide as much information, can use their own recruitment processes to prove no New Zealanders are available for work, and Immigration New Zealand will endeavour to have these visas processed within 30 days once an employer is accredited."
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the full reopening is a significant milestone for the international education sector, which can now start to rebuild sustainably, with a big focus on value and by attracting genuine students.
“More than 5000 international students have already been confirmed for entry as part of previous border exemptions, which means they can be here by mid-July. From the end of July, all international students who meet normal entry criteria can enrol for study here,” Chris Hipkins said.
“But the future will be different, we won’t be going back to National’s volume over value approach that became a backdoor to residency for lower-skilled and lower-paid migrant workers, who were then at risk of exploitation."
The full details of the New Zealand government's Immigration Rebalance can be found here.