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Government Hearing Farmers On Dairy Immigration Concerns

Federated Farmers is pleased that the Government has recognised the need to extend the Essential Skills visa for the valuable migrant staff working in our dairy sector.

The Government is increasing the duration of 12-month Essential Skills visas and streamlining the application process to make things easier for both employers and visa holders while the border remains closed.

"These valued staff are offering just what their visa says, essential skills to the New Zealand dairy industry," Federated Farmers Employment and Immigration spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

"Since the original lockdown Feds and Dairy NZ have been in constant contact with the Government explaining how important those valued staff on Essential Skills visas are to our industry. We need them helping with calving and putting cups on cows now more than ever with the border still closed and low domestic unemployment."

From Monday 19 July, the maximum duration of Essential Skills visas for jobs paid below the median wage, will increase from 12 months to 24 months. The maximum duration of Essential Skills visas for jobs paid above the median wage will remain at three years. The application process for renewing Essential Skills visas will also be simplified for workers remaining in their current roles.

"Alongside the need for the current exception process for bringing new workers across the border, keeping hold of those good people already here working in our industry has been the other key part of the message from Feds and Dairy NZ," Chris said.

"We don’t want these people taking their good skills and work habits and exiting the country because of visa uncertainty, and this is an important step to help keeping them here. We are doing what we can to attract Kiwis to the industry, but all provincial employers feel like they are fighting over the same scraps of the labour force pie at the moment."

The requirements for all employers and workers to move to the Accredited Employer Work Visa, which was due to come into effect on 1 November, will be delayed until the middle of next year.

"Farmers and their workers have got enough to worry about at the moment without getting their heads around this new visa system.

"We just want to get on with the business of farming and anything that helps ease the current labour woes is a good step, so Federated Farmers would like to thank the Government for listening to the concerns of our farmers on this one," Chris said.

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