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New Zealand expands working holiday programme for 2022/23

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • The New Zealand government is moving to extend the working holidays visas for visa holders already in the country, and has also extended the arrival window for new visa holders
  • Overall, the number of available working holiday visas will be doubled this year, in recognition of the programme spaces that went unfilled last year during the country’s extended border closure

New Zealand Immigration Minister Michael Wood has announced a major expansion of the country’s working holiday visa programme for this year. In a 21 August 2022 statement, the Minister introduced an easing of border rules for international workers, with a focus on economic sectors that have been especially hard hit by labour shortages. These sectors include personal care services, construction, food processing, and tourism.

Of particular interest to internationally mobile students, the Minister also announced a number of important provisions around New Zealand’s working holiday visa programme. Specifically:

  • Working holiday makers already in New Zealand with visas expiring between 26 August 2022 and 31 May 2023 can have their visas extended for six months “to keep workers that are already in country.”
  • New working holiday visas will be issued to travellers who have yet to arrive in New Zealand, allowing them to enter the country up to 31 January 2023.
  • The number of visas available under the programme cap will be doubled for 2022/23. This is a one-time increase that recognises the programme spots that went unused last year due to the country’s extended border closures, and will result in an additional 12,000 working holiday visas this year.

“Our immigration [policy] was designed during the pandemic and included the flexibility to respond to scenarios, such as the global labour shortage we now face. These measures are about providing immediate relief to those businesses hardest hit by the global worker shortage,” said Minister Wood. “Since our borders have fully reopened we are seeing the return of working holiday makers with approximately 4,000 already in country and over 21,000 have had their application to work here approved.”

“COVID brought the world to a standstill. While we can ensure the ability for those to come and work here, we acknowledge that people to people movement globally remains slow when compared to pre-COVID levels, and this is being particularly felt by the hospitality and tourism sectors who traditionally rely on international workers.”

A recent survey conducted by the national tourism body Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) found that half of tourism employers expected to hire foreign workers this year. “We are hopeful this will help to relieve some of the immediate pressures on employers,” said TIA Chief Executive Rebecca Ingram. “And there are added benefits – while not all Working Holiday Visa holders will work in tourism and hospitality, they will all want to enjoy tourism activities and experiences while they are in New Zealand.”

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