The Government is freeing up space for overseas workers to go through Covid-19 managed isolation quarantine facilities.
This is great news for New Zealand's exporters and construction sectors, who desperately need skilled and unskilled workers to make progress.
But there is a catch coming later this year that businesses may be unaware of.
Whether you're a corner dairy or a large packing company, such as EastPack, employers of overseas workers will need to become an accredited business through Immigration NZ – with only a few exceptions.
The Ministry of Immigration is now seeking a 'business-led' process, which is code for businesses doing a lot more work.
It is partly due to historic cases where employers were mistreating the staff on working visas by providing some pretty horrific working conditions.
But, it also fits what I believe to be the Government's larger agenda of using our closed borders to make structural changes to our labour market, by putting the brakes on businesses relying on migrant workers.
From November 2021 onwards, once employers have become accredited, they will also need to apply for a job check to make sure the role they want to fill cannot be done by New Zealanders.
The job check will confirm the job pays the market rate, the terms and conditions comply with our employment laws, and you have done a labour market test if you need to.
You can only hire a migrant worker if the job check is passed.
There could be significant time spent and costs incurred for small businesses to meet the accreditation and 'job check' tests to prove the role can't be filled by a Kiwi. And, even then, the migrant worker will need to meet the skills and experience stipulated as part of the job check.
This process presents a significant hurdle at a time when the most common issue facing businesses is the shortage of labour.
It is going to take years for the Government's new apprenticeship scheme to fill the gaps in the labour market – particularly in construction, horticulture and healthcare sectors.
The Government will hamstring our economic recovery if the migrant worker visa process becomes cumbersome, bureaucratic and frustrating.
The process is already creating a new business opportunity for previous immigration lawyers and agents, who have started businesses to help walk employers through the process.
Get in touch with the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce if you have questions or think you'll need help.
- Matt Cowley is the chief executive of the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce