WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand said on Wednesday it will tighten access to its skilled work visas, just a day after the United States and neighbouring Australia announced similar restrictions on immigration.
New Zealand’s immigration minister said he was taking a “Kiwis-first approach to immigration”, echoing Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and U.S. President Donald Trump in announcing policies to ensure jobs for Australians and Americans.
Migration has become a hot topic in the lead up to New Zealand’s Sept. 23 general election.
“These changes are designed to strike the right balance ... and encourage employers to take on more Kiwis and invest in the training to upskill them,” immigration minister Michael Woodhouse said in a statement, using the colloquial term for New Zealand citizens.
The changes to be introduced later this year include introducing a minimum income requirement, making it more difficult for family members to join visa holders and limiting the amount of time seasonal workers are allowed to stay in New Zealand.
A boom in new arrivals has helped the New Zealand economy race along with some of the strongest gross domestic product growth in the developed world.
But opposition parties and the central bank have called for a review of current policies, citing low wages growth and soaring house prices spurred by the influx.
Many sectors, such as technology and construction suffer from a severe shortage of workers and companies in these areas were recruiting many of their workers from offshore.
Under the changes, employers would need to provide a minimum income of NZ$49,000 ($34,530.30) for anyone entering on a prioritised “skilled”. Anyone earning more than NZ$73,000 would be classed as highly skilled.
Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield. Editing by Jane Wardell and Michael Perry