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New Zealand has introduced tougher visa requirements for skilled workers and reaffirmed its “Kiwis first” stance on immigration following similar moves made yesterday by Australia and the US.

The country’s immigration minister Michael Woodhouse said on Wednesday the government had “a Kiwis first approach” with the changes designed to better manage immigration and to fill genuine skills shortages to contribute to the economy.

Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull yesterday scrapped its skilled worker 457 visa scheme amid growing tension over immigration in the country, while Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at cracking down on the abuse of of the H-1B visa programme for skilled workers.

Mr Woodhouse said:

I want to make it clear that where there are genuine labour or skills shortages, employers will be able to continue to use migrant labour to fill those jobs. However, the Government has a Kiwis first approach to immigration and these changes are designed to strike the right balance between reinforcing the temporary nature of Essential Skills work visas and encouraging employers to take on more Kiwis and invest in the training to upskill them.

Changes to the policy include introducing a minimum annual salary of NZ$48,859 ($34,411) – which is New Zealand’s median income – for those applying under the Skilled Migrant Category. A separate threshold of NZ$73,299 will apply to jobs that are not classed as skilled but are well paid, Mr Woodhouse said.

Lower paid and lower-skilled Essential Skills visa holders will be limited to a maximum stay of three years followed by a “minimum stand down period” before becoming eligible to reapply for the temporary visa.

The changes, to be implemented later this year, will also ensure the length of visas issued for seasonal jobs align with peak labour demand, the statement said.

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