Major expansion of Green List to help fill labour shortages

12 DECEMBER 2022

Michael Wood 2020 Headshot


Immigration Minister Michael Wood today announced a suite of measures to further support New Zealand businesses through the global labour shortage and attract more high skilled workers long term.

“The whole world is experiencing labour shortages right now. Since our borders reopened, the Government has taken a number of steps to support businesses to recruit internationally to fill these shortages,” Michael Wood.

“We have approved over 94,000 job positions for international recruitment, granted over 40,000 working holiday visas, reopened the Pacific Access Category and Samoa Quota, delivered the largest increase in a decade to the RSE scheme, and resumed the Skilled Migrant Category and Parent Category so as to strengthen our international offering – but there is more we can do to support businesses to attract the workers they need.

“New Zealand’s strong economic position during a time of global downturn presents a unique opportunity to attract more high skilled migrant workers to our shores, as we prepare for a challenging year ahead.

“We understand that labour shortages are the biggest issue facing New Zealand businesses, and are contributing to cost of living pressures too. These measures are about addressing those shortages and providing greater certainty to businesses as they recover from the pandemic.

“As part of our signalled review, we are expanding the Green List settings to include more professions in our healthcare, education and construction sectors, to give a competitive edge in a highly competitive global environment.

“While some commentators are suggesting that our labour market is starting to lose some of its heat, we are continuing to pull out all the stops to position ourselves ahead of the pack. We are supporting those businesses and sectors feeling these shortages more acutely, like our healthcare workforce, with a mind to preparing for the year ahead.  

“From Thursday registered nurses and midwives will have an immediate pathway to residence, including those already in New Zealand.

“Since the pandemic 3,474 nurses have arrived in country, but it’s clear we need to do more to encourage nurses to choose New Zealand. Adding these roles will further build on the attractiveness of New Zealand to those looking to set themselves and their families up long term.  

“From March, the work to residence pathway will be further expanded to include all teachers and will add in additional roles such as drain layers, motor mechanics skilled civil machine operators.  

“All applicants will be able to count time on a work visa from 29 September 2021, towards their work to residence requirement.

“Our sector agreements are in place across the construction, seafood, aged care, meat processing, seasonal snow, and adventure tourism sectors. Today we have agreed to extend the scheme to bus and truck drivers with a time limited, two year residence pathway. The agreement will support our work underway to improve better wages and conditions for bus drivers and local workforce development. This will help relieve the national driver shortage, helping Kiwis and goods get to where they need to go,” Michael Wood said.

A suite of additional measures have also been confirmed today, including:

  • Automatically extending employer accreditation by 12 months if their first accreditation is applied for by 4 July 2023.
  • Introducing a streamlined Specific Purpose work visa to help keep the approximate 2,500 long-term critical workers already in the country to continue to work in their current role for up to three years.
  • Providing a 12-month Open Work Visa for approximately 1,800 previous holders of Post Study Work Visas who missed out because of the border closure in 2020-21 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“By listening to the concerns of these sectors, and working with them to take practicable steps to unlock additional labour, we know these measures will help fill skills gaps, as businesses work towards more productive and resilient ways of operating,” Michael Wood said.

“The Green List has been under constant review and will be next reviewed in mid-2023. We’ve said we have been prepared to make changes when the evidence supports the need to, and we will continue to monitor our settings to ensure they remain fit for purpose.

“Our immigration rebalance was designed to make it easier for employers to get the highly-skilled workers they need, , simplifying the settings and streamlining application processes for businesses, while reducing the previous reliance on lower-skilled migrant workers to help improve productivity, wages and working conditions for everyone.

“Overall, with the suite of measures announced today, alongside the likes of the Skilled Migrant Category and Accredited Employer Work Visa, I am confident Aotearoa New Zealand has the settings it needs to access skilled labour, support migrants and help us through the challenging year ahead,” Michael Wood said.

Roles added to Green List work to residence tier from March 2023

  • Civil construction supervisors
  • Gasfitters
  • Drain layers
  • Skilled crane operators
  • Skilled civil machine operators
  • Halal slaughterers
  • Skilled motor mechanics
  • Skilled telecommunications technicians
  • All secondary school teachers (in addition to the specialisations already on the Green List)
  • Primary school teachers

Roles added to Green List straight to residence tier Registered nurses (on 15 December 2022)

  • Midwives (on 15 December 2022)
  • Specialist doctors not already on the Green List (on 15 December 2022)
  • Registered Auditors (from March 2023)

Bus & truck drivers

Bus and truck drivers will have a time limited residence pathway through a sector agreement.

  • Cabinet has agreed in principle to develop a sector agreement to support workforce needs
  • Officials will consult with transport sector representatives in the development of the agreement

Measures government has taken through the Immigration Rebalance to relieve workforce shortages

  • Non-visa waiver countries and international student visas were opened, and over 200,000 migrants will be able to call New Zealand home thanks to RV21.
  • Introduced sector agreements for tourism, hospitality, the care workforce, construction and infrastructure, meat processing, seafood, seasonal snow and adventure tourism.
  • We have confirmed the reopening of the Pacific Access Category and Samoa Quota and we’ve delivered the largest increase in a decade to the RSE scheme.
  • We have heard clearly from businesses that they need the full suite of Immigration tools to help them succeed. So we have resumed the Skilled Migrant Category and Parent Category visa to strengthen our international offering.
  • Delayed the introduction of the requirement for partners to hold their own AEWV.
  • Extended the visas of working holiday makers already in New Zealand with visas expiring between 26 August 2022 and 31 May 2023 by six months.
  • We have also provided an additional opportunity for those who previously held a working holiday visa but didn’t travel due to Covid-19 to come to New Zealand for the summer.

Employer Accreditation

Employer accreditations will automatically be extended by 12 months if their first accreditation is applied for by 4 July 2023.

Most accredited employers who move onto a 24-month accreditation cycle after their initial first 12-month accreditation, will effectively receive a 24-month first accreditation.

This one-off extension will provide employers with certainty as we head into 2023 that they will continue to have access to skilled labour without the additional cost and administrative burden of re-applying for accreditation.

Expansion of the accreditation system to cover all migrants, including those with open work rights would be deferred until 2024.

Post Study Work visa holders

People who held a Post Study Work Visa but were unable to use it due to the border closing in March 2020 will be eligible for 12-month open work visas if they’re not already in New Zealand on another visa.

Specific Purpose Work Visa

We are introducing a streamlined Specific Purpose work visa that long-term critical workers can apply for to allow them to continue to work in their current role for up to three years.

These long-term workers have played an important role throughout our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, working in the health or other sectors.

The Specific Purpose work visa will give certainty to these workers who remain in the same job as their original approved visa, but who may not be eligible for the 2021 Resident Visa.  

This will ensure consistency with the Essential Skills Visa and Accredited Employer Work Visa, where people paid at least the median wage receive a three-year visa.

The process will be streamlined, so the only employment-related information an applicant needs to provide is a letter from their employer confirming that they remain employed in the same role and on the same (or better) conditions as those that were approved in the Critical Purpose Visa application.

The official website of the New Zealand Government - HON MICHAEL WOOD - Immigration Minister
December 14, 2022