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NZ Immigration Changes - How will this affect Hospitality?

Changes to New Zealand immigration, including new salary thresholds for skilled worker categories, have many hospitality business owners and managers fretting. The thresholds aren’t the only thing that could potentially make it harder to hire skilled workers in restaurants, bars and hotels. Proposed changes make it more difficult for workers to bring families with them into the country and they impose additional limitations on skilled worker visas.

Proposed Limitations on Work Visa Access

The limitations could mean someone has to reapply for a visa each year — a tedious and frustrating process. Employers who long for experienced, trained speciality staff already struggle with the current visa process as they try to keep workers. Even if someone is able to navigate the visa process successfully each time, after three years, the new laws would force a one-year hiatus. The worker would have to leave the country for 12 months before they could apply again to receive a work visa. It’s not a policy that supports businesses, who rely on long-term employees who know how to handle the work, especially in peak tourism seasons.

One immigration consultant also points out that the policies could lead to younger workers trying to make it in a new country without the support of their family. The back and forth and unclear future of their visas also prevent them from settling down appropriately, creating an obstacle to strong local ties and potentially lending to conflict.

Hospitality Businesses Already Feeling the Impact

For many New Zealand businesses, it’s not a question of if immigration changes will impact business, but a question of when. For some, the effects are already being felt. One café in Auckland is already seeing employees leave. Staffers who won’t quality for visa points based on their work in the café — or anywhere equivalent in Auckland — are leaving the business and the city to seek work elsewhere in the country that will qualify them for points. Other workers are already preparing to leave the country.

Replacing the workers isn’t as simple as placing an advert for new employees, either. According to the café owners — and other owners in the hospitality industry — not enough native New Zealanders are looking for this type of work. These are jobs traditionally filled by foreign workers, and it’s getting harder to hire in new replacements from offshore.

Immigrants Face Deportation Under the New Laws

It’s not just business owners that are worried. Many immigrants, some who have been working and studying in the country for years, face the likelihood of deportation under the new immigration laws. One man has been living in New Zealand, studying business management and hospitality. He’s currently on a student visa, which is up soon when his schooling is done. He’s been told by officials that he doesn’t have the right qualifications for a work visa, though his education positions him as an ideal entry-level candidate in certain hospitality niches.

Some pathways are being opened for long-term temporary migrants, particularly in the South Island, but to date, those options don’t appear possible across the country. Hospitality businesses — and their employers — should continue to track the immigration changes and debates and plan accordingly.


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