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The New Zealand border will fully reopen at the end of July, two months earlier than the government had previously announced.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has, via video link from self-isolation, told a business audience in downtown Auckland that border restrictions will end on July 31. “New Zealand is in demand and is now fully open for business,” Ardern said. “We know that a major constraint for companies is access to a qualified workforce. This plan will increase the available labor pool, while accelerating the recovery of our tourism.

The escalation of the border plan will mean more tourists as well as the return of international students. It will also mean that the cruise season can begin with existing maritime border restrictions also ending on July 31.

Covid monitoring will continue at the border for now, Ardern said, but the Prime Minister was “confident” that pre-departure testing would also be scrapped by July 31.

The Prime Minister announcing border changes via video link (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

But it’s not just vacationers the government wants to attract. A “rebalanced” immigration plan aims to attract migrant workers to travel here. “The cornerstone of our rebalancing is the new Green List which will incentivize and attract highly skilled migrants to New Zealand, providing a new streamlined pathway to residency for those who are hard to fill globally,” the Minister said. of Immigration Kris Faafoi.

The list includes 85 “hard to fill roles”, including construction, engineering, trades, health workers and technology. Eligible migrants working in these professions will have clear pathways to residency, either through a direct residency application or after working in New Zealand, depending on the role.

Simply put, a doctor could apply for residency as soon as they decide to come to New Zealand. Jobs must all be paid minimum wage, usually tied to the median wage.

A second bracket of jobs, which includes midwives and teachers, could apply for residency after two years, she said. Applications for both open July 4.

While news of an immigration reset will be great news for many, the opposition has some concerns. Immigration Act spokesman James McDowall asked how quickly people will be able to get to New Zealand. “The border will not be open from July, it will be open for applications,” he said. “With Immigration New Zealand’s processing times, who knows when the border will actually open?”

According to Faafoi, it should only take a month for green list applications. “Immigration New Zealand will endeavor to have these visas processed within 30 days of employer accreditation,” he said.

Faafoi also confirmed that around 20,000 visa holders whose visas expired before next year were granted either a six-month extension or a new two-year visa with open working conditions.

Photo: Getty Images, additional design by Tina Tiller

More than 5,000 international students have already been confirmed for entry under previous border exemptions, said Chris Hipkins, Minister for Covid Response and Education. “From the end of July, all international students who meet the normal entry criteria can apply to study here,” Hipkins said.

“But the future will be different, we will not return to the volume versus value approach of National which has become a back door to residency for lower skilled and lower paid migrant workers, who then risked be exploited,” he said.

Key changes include that students on non-degree courses will not gain post-study work rights unless they study and then work in specified skilled and shortage occupations. Students will also not be able to apply for a second New Zealand post-study visa.

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