A “Pathways to Residency” petition has been launched on Action Station for “normally resident migrant workers who have made New Zealand their home and deserve a place of sanctuary in today’s post-Covid world.”
The campaign is supported by Unite Union, One Union and the Migrant Workers Association.
The Covid crisis has exposed the fact that New Zealand has become over-reliant on migrant workers on temporary visas.
Currently, there are over 250,000 workers here on temporary visas. Many of them have been here for up to a decade and have made New Zealand their home. Many have children born here who know of no other life.
Many were sold a promise of eventually being able to gain permanent residency but had the bar of eligibility lifted on them after they arrived.
Permanent Residence visa numbers have been reduced whilst the number of people allowed in on temporary visas was increased before Covid hit. This has pushed the points required for permanent residence above that for nurses and teachers, for example. This is just nuts.
However, in the post-Covid world, New Zealand will not be able to re-establish a system involving the granting of a quarter of a million temporary visas each year to replace those who leave, as was what was being done pre-Covid.
It makes sense for us to offer permanent residency to those who have made New Zealand their home.
As a first step to repairing the broken system that currently exists the government should immediately:
- Create a new “Pathway to Residency temporary visa” available to anyone currently on an essential skill or graduate job search visa who has been working and/or studying for five years or more.
- Allow “normally resident” Kiwis stuck overseas to return to New Zealand on the same basis as citizens.
- Offer migrants who may have overstayed their visas pathways to residency if they have made New Zealand their home and are without criminal convictions.
- Provide an extension of the period for low-skilled visas (from the current 6 months to 12 months or longer).
- Postpone the stand-down requirements which are coming into force in 2021 so a review can be held on long-term policy changes needed for this sector in the post-Covid world.
Many migrant workers and their employers desperately need the government to promise that they won’t be moving to deport people currently in work whose visas are going to expire over the next months. This is especially so when the virus appears out of control in so many countries.
This is a once in a generation opportunity to fix a broken system. We can give residency to those we lured here on false promises and changed the rules after they came. We can use the “Pathways to Residency Visas” to encourage workers to go to areas of the economy that need workers.
This is a win-win for workers, employers, and the government. It is a common-sense solution to a deep problem of our own making. It is the humanitarian thing to do in the world we are now living in.
Everyone currently in New Zealand has been part of the “Team of Five Million” and they deserve our solidarity and support.