24 February 2009

NZ's adventure capital slowed down by visa delays

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Queenstown, New Zealand's adventure capital, is pushing to have working visas fast-tracked so that their overseas employees can start working in the lead-up to the winter season, reports the Otago Daily Times.

The New Zealand immigration officials met with Queenstown businesses to discuss how their New Zealand work visa process can be fast-tracked.

Novotel Queenstown Lakeside general manager Jim Moore said he had issues with the New Zealand visa process, and that they are having to turn down staff because of the length of time it is taking to have their New Zealand work permits renewed, which in many cases was taking six to eight weeks.

According to the report, around half of the staff hired in Queenstown hotels require New Zealand working visas such as the New Zealand working holiday visa.  Most of these workers are reported to be holders of six to twelve-month work visas that are sponsored by employers and need renewal after their expiry date.

Immigration New Zealand had promised the process would be sped up for Queenstown businesses so that the New Zealand visa applications could be approved within days, but according to local businesses that promise is no longer being followed through.

"From July 2008 . . . all work permit job offers involving semi-skilled and unskilled positions [were] checked with Work and Income.  This was to verify if suitable New Zealanders were available to fill these positions, before any work permits could be issued to non-New Zealanders," said Immigration New Zealand Group Manager Steve Cantlon.

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