Tourism Industry Aotearoa says businesses gearing up for the return of Australian visitors from next week will have access to an offshore pool of much-needed workers.
Immigration New Zealand has confirmed that the suspension on processing Working Holiday Visas, in place since last year, will be partially lifted from Monday, when the full transtasman bubble starts, for younger foreign workers who have been in Australia during the pandemic.
The workers must be under 30 and the countries concerned are Britain, the United States, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. There may be up to 45,000 young travellers in Australia although it was not known how many would be from the 14 eligible countries.
They could also plug gaps in the fruit, vegetable and wine industries although Horticulture New Zealand said it did not know details of a change in the rules.
Working Holiday Visas are available to young people, usually aged 18 to 30, and let them travel and work in New Zealand for up to 12 months, or 23 months if they are from Britain or Canada. New Zealand has reciprocal Working Holiday Scheme agreements with 45 countries - 31 are capped and have scheduled opening dates each year, and 14 are uncapped and open throughout the year, TIA says.
The Government is deferring the opening of the capped schemes because of the ongoing border restrictions.
TIA chief executive Chris Roberts said Immigration NZ had promised to process applications within standard timeframes.
"Tourism employers want to employ Kiwis first, but young visitors on Working Holiday Visas have always played a valuable role in filling the gaps."
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Candidates for working holiday visas need to meet health, character, capability to travel on and medical insurance criteria. Roberts said once in the country they could start work nearly straight away.
Even though tourism has been one of the hardest-hit sectors as a result of closed borders there was still a shortage of workers in some areas where accommodation is still expensive or hard to find.
Staff shortages are being reported in destinations such as Queenstown and Te Anau, but also in the main centres.
TIA had lobbied to have the rules relaxed for young workers in Australia.
Roberts said they could be tempted by New Zealand's ski season and may want a change of scenery after being stuck in Australia for a year but reluctant to return to their home countries where in some cases the pandemic was raging.
Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi's office referred inquiries to Immigration NZ. Stephen Vaughan, deputy head of Immigration New Zealand, said that when this country entered a Quarantine-Free Travel Zone with Australia, eligible applicants in Australia will be able to apply for a visa under the uncapped schemes.
"This would apply if New Zealand enters Quarantine-Free Travel Zones with other countries as well," he said.