Critical healthcare workers must be granted residency as a priority

The Immigration Minister must urgently reopen the frozen Skilled Migrant Category visa EOI pool and prioritise processing of residence applications for critical healthcare workers to keep them in New Zealand as we battle the Covid-19 outbreak, says National’s Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford.

“National is also calling on the Government to offer residence class visas on arrival to experienced specialist nurses to attract them to New Zealand to fill critical shortages and boost the resilience of our health sector.

“We have already announced our plan to the clear the current residency backlog and provide a pathway for skilled migrants already in the country to gain residency. However, the outbreak of the Delta variant has shown how desperately we need experienced specialist nurses and doctors here in New Zealand.

“Just two days ago, we saw Auckland hospitals desperately asking for more intensive care nurses to help them cope with the Covid outbreak, while transferring spinal cord patients to free up space in ICU.

“Currently, huge delays in processing visas resulting in a years-long backlog of residency applications, and a frozen residency pool is leaving many of our nurses and doctors stuck in immigration limbo. They can’t access Kiwisaver or buy a house. They’re fed up and they’re now they’re choosing to leave.

“There are currently 2231 nurses and 675 doctors who have been stuck in the frozen pool for up to 18 months while the Minister has sat back and done nothing. We risk losing these valuable workers if the Minister fails to act with urgency.

“Prioritising residence applications for critical healthcare workers as a matter of urgency will provide certainty to our valued nurses and doctors that they have a future here in New Zealand, and ensure they remain to help us in our fight against Covid-19.

“National is also calling on the Government to offer residence class visas on arrival to specialist nurses with the qualifications, skills and experience to allow them to immediately start working in New Zealand. This will bolster our healthcare workforce, and address the critical work shortages this sector faces. MIQ spaces would need to be set aside to ensure they could arrive as soon as possible.

“The Government must also fast-track the pathway to residency for those critical healthcare workers already in New Zealand on Residence from Work visas by removing the requirement of having to hold a Talent (Accredited Employer) work visa for at least 24 months.

“National understands the importance of building the resilience of our healthcare sector. With the world competing for global talent to help their fight against Covid-19, we need to ensure we don’t lose our critical health workers to other countries, while attracting the best talent from overseas. With our immigration system currently in disarray, international talent is looking to go to countries like Australia or Canada instead.

“If we want the best, we need to be the best. Offering a clear pathway to permanent residency will ensure New Zealand remains an attractive destination for health professionals to come and work at time when we need them more than ever.”