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New Zealand's New Immigration Policy and the Effect on Business

The New Zealand Labour Party and NZ First ran on a platform of reducing immigration. Their platforms looked very different, but it’s now been confirmed that Labour’s immigration policy is the one that the ruling coalition will be working towards.

This gives business owners a strong idea of the direction immigration will be going in New Zealand over the next few years. Labour wants to reduce net immigration by 20,000-30,000 through changes to student and working visas.


Perhaps the biggest changes will occur in the education sector. Student visas will no longer be available for ‘low quality’ courses. Courses below a Bachelor’s level will be independently assessed for quality and determinations on visa status will be made on a case-by-case basis.

It is estimated that this will lead to a decline of $70 million to the education sector. For those who already have businesses educating international students, ensuring courses provide a quality learning experience should be the first step in future-proofing the business.

However, additional policy measures seem set on making New Zealand a less attractive option regardless of the quality of education. International students enrolled in any course below Bachelor’s level will not be able to work while studying, unless the work is part of their course, which may put New Zealand out of reach for many.

Additionally, the Post-Study Work Visa will only be available to those completing a Bachelor’s Degree or above. This could mean that students who have chosen New Zealand due to the option of being able stay and work after studying, will instead look to other countries for their education.

These measures are intended to close scam training providers, offering poor quality education as a backdoor route to residency. For those offering quality education, opportunities may increase over time as this occurs.


The construction and housing industries will be affected in two ways: a decrease in customers and a decrease in employees. According to Labour, the decrease in immigration should ease pressure on infrastructure and solve the housing crisis.

However, less infrastructure means the construction and housing industries may see a decline. It’s estimated that the reduction in student visas will see a $250 million decline in the wider economy, including a decline in student accommodation.

Those in the construction industry may also find it harder to get visas for skilled workers. Labour wishes to fill shortages with Kiwi workers and plans to train these skills domestically. In the residential construction industry, this policy is already fleshed out through KiwiBuild, a scheme where construction companies can bring in a foreign worker if they also hire a local apprentice.

Tourism and Hospitality

Some experts believe that tightening immigration leads to a tarnished reputation overseas. This could lead to a decrease in the tourism and hospitality industry as overseas tourists choose a more welcoming destination. Of course, fewer migrants means fewer family members from overseas visiting, which could have a knock-on effect on tourism and hospitality.

For the industry, fewer unskilled workers also means a decline in available workers. These jobs are often the ones considered undesirable by domestic workers. The industry will need to find ways to make them attractive to Kiwis, if they cannot hire foreign workers or international students to fill the positions.

Emerging Industries

The good news is the Exceptional Skills Visa aims to bring in those with rare or exceptional skills in their industry. If their occupation is on the long-term skills list, and they have exceptional qualifications or are internationally renowned, they don’t need to meet the points requirement. This new visa class can help grow high-tech companies; those in emerging industries should consider enticing exceptional talent to New Zealand.

The new government’s immigration policies are going to bring large changes to Kiwi businesses, and business owners need to be ready for them. Although there may be difficulties with shrinking employment pools and customer bases, companies that look at change as an opportunity to evolve, are most likely to continue experience strong business.