New Zealand 'opens its doors' to working holiday visa applicants for the first time since the pandemic began

The return of more skilled workers coming into New Zealand from Monday will accelerate New Zealand's economic recovery, the Immigration Minister says.

From 11.59pm on Sunday, applications for some working holiday schemes open for the first time since the pandemic began.

Working holiday visas allow people, usually aged 18 to 30, to travel and work in New Zealand for up to 12 months, or 23 months if they are from the UK or Canada.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said it would help fill workforce shortages and support tourism.

“Before Covid-19 we welcomed around 50,000 working holidaymakers to New Zealand each year, so it’s a key milestone in our economic recovery that we’re opening our doors to this group of tourists and workers again,” he said.

From Monday, the critical worker border exception for roles lasting longer than six months will also be widened, reducing the salary criteria to 1.5 times the median wage and removing the requirement to have skills not readily obtainable in New Zealand, he said.

“The expanded settings are expected to benefit a variety of sectors seeking to attract skilled workers, including early to mid-career professionals for roles in the tech sector, business and accounting services, education, construction and the primary industries.

“Getting more working holidaymakers and skilled migrants into the country in the coming weeks and months is a priority for the Government in order to accelerate our recovery, which is why we have reopened this category early in our reconnection plan.”

The Government had granted a new 12-month visa to about 19,500 people offshore who previously held a working holiday visa but were unable to use it because of our border restrictions.

They will need to use this new visa within the next six months, Faafoi said.

The return of working holidaymakers would also provide a much-needed boost for the tourism sector ahead of the reopening of the borders more generally to tourists.

“Working holidaymakers tend to travel to multiple regions during their time in New Zealand, which is beneficial for the tourism sector and local economies right across the country," he said.

The Working Holiday Schemes will reopen in stages, with all uncapped schemes, which account for around three quarters of all working holidaymakers, opening for applications at 10am on Monday, March 14. Capped schemes are being staggered after that. All schemes will be reopened by September 13.

Stuff - Brianna Mcilraith
March 12, 2022