ACT introduces plan to streamline immigration policy

Businesses welcome plan amid 'confusion' on work visa rules

ACT introduces plan to streamline immigration policy

New Zealand's ACT party has unveiled its immigration policy plan that seeks to streamline what it described is an "overly complex" set of current rules and regulations.

"Employers have been through enough under the Labour government, with lockdowns, more bureaucracy, and increased costs. It's time we made it easier to do business in New Zealand, increased productivity and give the people who put it all on the line a break," says James McDowall, ACT's immigration spokesperson.

Businesses, which have been grappling with skills shortage as of late, say they welcome ACT's proposed solutions on improving access to work visas — but note they are still looking into them.

Regulatory analysis

Under the newly released plan, ACT seeks to subject all major immigration policy decisions to a Regulatory Impact Analysis to ensure that the benefits outweigh the costs.

It also wants to replace the system for temporary work visas and replace it with demand-based pricing to let employers decide if their need is worth the price. Other changes that the ACT outlined include:

  • ensuring the Skilled Migrant Category offers an efficient and predictable pathway for migrants of all skill levels and occupations
  • introducing a sustainable solution for parent visas so talented workers can make a home in New Zealand without leaving their parents behind so long as there is no extra cost to the taxpayer
  • tackling the sources of Immigration New Zealand's slow processing times to remove uncertainty and frustration for people who want to bring their skills to New Zealand

ACT's plan for immigration policy was released at a time when many businesses are crying out from skills shortages in the wake of the pandemic.

Skills shortages

David Seymour, ACT leader, said immigration must make it easy for these employers to access talent from overseas.

"The current set of rules and regulations are overly complex, perhaps due to being made without proper policy oversight, so immigration rules must be streamlined to enable employers to get the people and skills they need," he says.

According to the ACT leader, their plan seeks to make New Zealand "competitive" with the rest of the world amid a tight labour market.

"Immigration is a make-or-break policy area for New Zealand. If the country does not have processes at least as good as those in major competitor countries like Australia and Canada, businesses will struggle to grow, social services will fail to deliver, and a spiral will take hold where it is even more difficult to attract and retain talent than in competitor countries," says Seymour.

Employers welcome plan

Business NZ said in a statement that they welcome the solutions introduced by ACT and are considering the cost-benefit analysis of the immigration policy and the use of demand-based pricing.

It comes as employers expressed "confusion" about New Zealand’s policy on immigration, according to Catherine Beard, Business NZ advocacy director.

"Businesses are struggling with the restrictive system for work visas and the complicated system for bringing in skilled migrants, which is making it hard for firms to access the skills they need," she says. "Business requires open, simple, permissive immigration settings to meet the challenge of severe skill shortages and reduce economic and social harm."

Business NZ, which represents thousands of businesses, said it will be scrutinising the immigration programmes of all parties ahead of the 2023 General Election.

"We will be interested to see the immigration policies of all parties in the run-up to the next election, as a better approach is required in this important policy area," says Beard.

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