Govt urged to expand visa criteria

    Brazilian couple Clara and Danilo Casaes, with daughter Heloisa (7), would like to have more certainty about their future.

    A GROUP of students is urging the Government to broaden eligibility for the recently announced fast-tracked 2021 Resident Visa.

    Brazilian couple Clara and Danilo Casaes moved to Invercargill in January 2020 to both complete a Masters in Information Technology at The Southern Institute of Technology (SIT).

    Both were excited with the visa announcement last week, but were also disappointed people like them, on student visas, would not be considered for the pathway visa.

    The pathway visa, announced by Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi, would provide a one-off, simplified programme to residence for about 165,000 migrants in New Zealand on mostly work-related visas, including essential skills, work to residence, and post-study work visas.

    An environmental engineer, Mrs Casaes believed people who were on a student visa and were eligible for the post-student work visa in the next year, should also be included in the new programme.

    “The news is great and needs to be celebrated, but we feel that we missed it.

    “We both work in areas of high demand and have been here [in New Zealand] through the whole pandemic.

    “The Government created the post-student work visa as a way to retain skilled and high-demand workers in the country. It is not only a benefit for the students. So I think the decision to not include those people who will have a post-student work visa very soon is frustrating.”

    She said the residence pathway could be granted to students with the condition they needed to complete their studies.

    “This could give us some kind of certainty as we can’t do any long-term planning at the moment. We feel very anxious.”

    Mrs Casaes is among thousands of people who have signed a petition calling for the Government’s new residency plan to be expanded to include all visa holders who have lived in New Zealand for three or more years, earn the median wage, or work in a role on a skill shortage list.

    Petition organiser Rachel Swann was granted an Essential Skills Work Visa in 2018 but swapped to a partner of a student work visa recently to improve her job prospects and gain more points to qualify for residency under the skilled migrant category.

    Now, she was disappointed she would not be eligible for the recently announced visa pathway.

    “It is incredibly disappointing given that for the past 12 months the Government has been saying to us skilled jobs or high-skilled qualifications in New Zealand to be eligible for residency’. Now, by doing that, we are not eligible and frustrated.”

    She said support had been overwhelming as the petition had more than 19,000 signatures since it was launched last week.

    SIT chief executive Onno Mulder said the institution had more than 900 international students enrolled this year.

    He welcomed the certainty provided for the community and would support broadening of the eligibility.

    “SIT is committed to meeting the needs of our community and it is very positive when our students can stay here in our region to help meet the labour market requirements.”

    Labour List MP Liz Craig said students were not included in the eligibility criteria as student visas were granted for a short term, with the specific purpose of enabling someone to study in New Zealand.

    “Southland has a strong multicultural community and, with skills shortages across a range of sectors, migrants have made a significant contribution to the local economy during Covid-19, working in our primary industries, our construction and manufacturing sectors, and in our schools, healthcare and aged care settings.

    “The 2021 Resident Visa recognises the contribution these workers have made by providing them a one-off pathway to residence.”

    Mr Faafoi said the Government considered the broad criteria for the 2021 Resident Visa comprehensive and was comfortable with the rules.

    “They will provide a pathway to residence in New Zealand on a massive scale but I acknowledge it is not a pathway for which everyone will be eligible.”

    However, he said, other visa options and pathways might be available to those people who did not meet any of the criteria for this 2021 Resident Visa.

    “The 2021 Resident Visa does not mean an end to future residence pathways.”

    Eligibility for the new 2021 Resident Visa:
    – Have lived in New Zealand for three or more years, or
    – earn above the median wage ($27 per hour or more), or
    – work in a role on the Long Term Skill Shortage List, or
    – hold occupational registration and work in the health or education sector, or
    – work in personal care or other critical health worker roles, or
    – work in a specified role in the primary industries.