The Government has revealed a proposed set of immigration reforms it says will simplify the system and make it easier for businesses and regions to get skilled workers.
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the changes would help sectors experiencing labour shortages to get the support they need.
The new proposals include introducing a new framework for assessing all employer-assisted temporary work visas.
Lees-Galloway said the framework would be employer-led, rather than migrant-led.
He slammed the previous Government's "one-size-fits-all approach" to immigration.
He said the current system was overly complex, included a number of different visa options and was not adequately responsive to sectoral or regional differences in the labour market.
"There are also too few checks and balances on employers hiring migrants, leading to increased migrant exploitation as some employers with poor track records are still able to access migrant labour."
Key elements of the proposal include replacing the Essential Skills in Demand Lists with Regional Skills Shortage Lists, as well as improving the alignment of the immigration, welfare, and education systems.
He said the Regional Skills Shortage Lists will better reflect the skill shortages that exist in the regions and provide a stronger signal to temporary migrants of opportunities in regional areas.
Lees-Galloway also wants to introduce sector agreements to ensure longer-term structural issues are addressed.
"The new employer checks will help combat migrant exploitation by lifting the requirements on all employers and enabling the Government to put tougher tests in place for higher risk employers and employers looking to hire multiple migrants," he said.
He added that the proposed changes would mean more incentives and support for businesses to employ more New Zealanders, while improving employment conditions and certainty for both domestic and migrant workers.
"The proposed changes represent a significant shift in how we operate our Immigration system in the best interests of the New Zealand economy and our regions. I encourage everyone to have their say during this consultation process," he said.
Consultation on the proposals is open to all individuals, groups or organisations and closes on March 18, 2019, with announcements on final decisions to be made by mid-2019.