New Zealand reopens Pacific residency ballot


Immigration Secretary Michael Wood has reopened voting for Pacific residency.

LAWRENCE SMITH/witness

Immigration Secretary Michael Wood has reopened voting for Pacific residency.

New Zealand will welcome up to 5900 people from Samoa, Fiji, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Tonga as it reopens Pacific residency and Samoan elections closed at the start of the pandemic.

In a normal year, the vote allows for the issuance of up to 1,100 resident visas for Samoan citizens and 650 visas for the other Pacific nations.

But Immigration Secretary Michael Wood said the quota would be increased over the next two years to make up for the two years without a visa.

In the next two years, he said, 5,900 visa slots would be opened for citizens of the five islands covered by the Pacific Access Resident Visa and Samoa Quota Resident Visa.

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He said bringing in more residents from the Pacific would help fill skills shortages and boost the economy.

“It recognizes the historic relationship between New Zealand and the Pacific, and we’re excited to see those categories reopen to our Pacific neighbors,” he said.

Zeprina Fale, an adviser with Manukau charity Pacific Settlement Services, said the restart of the Pacific Access election is exciting news for people who have already tried to relocate to their families in Aotearoa.

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However, she said this process was not working well before the pandemic and New Zealand’s immigration service should make simple changes to allow more people to meet the requirements for these visas.

To be eligible, each family’s lead applicant must have a job offer in New Zealand.

Fale said people could have a hard time finding a job offer in the short time they had after being pulled from the vote. She said the rush to bar a job offer meant people often ended up in a position that didn’t suit their skills and interests.

“Once you’re notified that you’ve been selected from the ballot, you should be given a six-month work visa to find a good job,” she said.

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“If they can get a short-term visa to gain experience and do some work, it would work much better.”

She said the process is currently seeing many people relying on friends or family to get a job offer quickly, or on bus companies who are facing labor shortages in Auckland and Wellington.

Wood said the application process is shifting online unless applicants are based in Kiribati or Tuvalu, where internet access is difficult.

Fale said many applicants on the other Pacific Islands also had problems with internet access or didn’t have credit cards to make the online payments. She said the ability to submit paper-based applications should not be taken away from other citizens.



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