Migrant workers who do not benefit from expedited residency are angry at being excluded, despite working in industries that demand workers.
Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said on Wednesday that a 2021 resident visa would be available for most work-related visa holders and their family members, as long as they were in New Zealand on September 29. An estimated 165,000 migrants qualify, including being on an eligible visa list.
Some short-term visa holders were not eligible, such as students, vacationers and seasonal workers.
Frenchwoman Marion Mercier, who has worked in New Zealand since May 2019, said it was unfair to miss it. She had held positions in hospitality and horticulture and worked at a Covid testing center.
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“I feel like we’ve served New Zealand really well, and it’s like we have nothing in return, no consideration, like we’re a low-skilled migrant, we’re useless. But we were quite helpful at the end.
Currently working as a barista at a cafe in central Auckland, she was inundated with inquiries from potential employers when she posted a Facebook post looking for her most recent job.
“It would have been nice if they had put hospitality in the eligibility criteria because they’ve been calling for people for so long, it’s like no one is hearing them.”
Her current visa expired in December and many other working holiday visa holders were in the same situation, she said.
“It’s like we just don’t exist. If they want to keep us to fill the labor shortages it would be nice to have an overtime not at the last minute … it’s always a last minute overtime, and it’s very tiring.
“It’s always six months, you can’t apply for jobs other than low-skilled jobs because it’s too short, it’s always been too short.
Mercier had a master’s degree in arts and culture management, but could not use it in the short-term jobs she could apply for. She had a New Zealand partner, but wanted to qualify for residency on her own terms and not through a partnership visa.
American Rachel Clark arrived in New Zealand in February 2020 with her English husband on an International Exchange Program (IEP) Working Holiday Visa and was currently working on a dairy farm in Ashburton.
They were constantly working in the agricultural sector, but were also grappling with the uncertainty of visa extensions.
“My husband and I had already lined up to go to work at Cromwell to pick cherries this summer from December 15. We can’t even give them certainty, but they actually hire us in the hope that they are extending it because they ‘we are so understaffed,’ she said.
Clark, who trained as a teacher in the United States and obtained an MA in Culture, would like to qualify for residency in New Zealand.
“I think everyone who is here at this point has proven that they are contributing, they should get residency, because residency is not citizenship. It just means that you can stay, continue to work, and possibly apply for citizenship.
“I don’t know why at a time when they are fighting for the workers, they wouldn’t keep everyone here.”
Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi was expecting advice shortly on extending working holiday visas, but under immigration law he was unable to grant six-month extensions, a spokesperson said. word.
“He is aware that some of these visas start to expire in December and will work to make a decision that can give employers and visa holders as much notice as possible.”
Any extension was to be based on the Covid-19 disruption and border restrictions, and extending visas too far in advance could be seen as going beyond that requirement.
Katy Armstrong, an immigration consultant at Into NZ, said the new resident visa was welcome for those with qualifications, but it was “cruelty” for those who had failed.
She had previously received a suicide note from someone who was not eligible, she said.
“The first reaction to the 165,000 is fantastic, that’s what we’re fighting for, but it comes at a price.”
The change was not kind and did not provide enough certainty, she said. Immigration experts should have been consulted to avoid anomalies.
“Every minute I get a phone call or an email from someone who hasn’t made the cut, and that’s just an anomaly. I think it should now be all or nothing.
The situation of people on a working holiday visa was complicated because it was always intended to be of short duration. “But we all know it was used to harvest skilled migrants and it’s so unfair.”
Immigration advisor David Cooper, chief executive of Malcolm Pacific, said it was difficult to understand the exclusion of some short-term visa holders, some of whom had been in the country for almost two years.
“Personally, I think this should have been applied at all levels, and we shouldn’t be excluding reasonably small groups.
“I don’t think the numbers are so out of control, I don’t think 165,000 would have gone up to 265,000, I think that would have been fair and equitable,” Cooper said.
Mandeep Singh Bela, president of the Union Network of Migrants and Indian Workers’ Association, said the change was “huge news”. This would help keep workers in New Zealand and help prevent the exploitation of migrant workers.
However, it was disappointing for the people who had missed out, many of whom had contributed to the economy.
“We think if the government really wants to tackle the backlog, really wants to hold back migrant workers, those who have come here in good faith, they have to do it right, they have to erase the slate and start all over again.”