0 have signed. Let’s get to 7,500!

Kia ora koutou

This petition is to ask the Government of New Zealand for a residence amnesty for all migrants on temporary working visas currently in New Zealand. In 2000, the Labour Government under Helen Clark offered an amnesty to migrants who were in New Zealand. In 2017, New Zealand announced the Southern Island Contribution Visa for those migrants living on the South Island who wanted to live in New Zealand permanently – that was based on the contribution migrants living on the South Island had made to New Zealand in the years after the earthquakes of 2011. That is to say, this request is not unprecedented.

In March 2020, the skilled migrant residence ‘pool’ was closed to new applicants. It remains closed, with no indication of when it might reopen. On March 19th 2020, New Zealand closed its borders to anyone who was not a citizen or permanent resident – this was in the wake of Covid-19 wreaking havoc around the globe.

There are 205,416 migrant workers currently in New Zealand (according to INZ), who have been here since the borders closed (and often, for many years before this happened) who are currently here on temporary working visas of various kinds – essential skills visas, work to residence visas, work to residence – Talent – accredited employer visas and others, who wish to have residence status in New Zealand. We have worked hard here, paid taxes here, contributed to the economy here – not to mention that this is our home. We are a proud part of our communities – rising at dawn to stand on Anzac Day; sewing masks for our neighbours; cleaning our health centres and working in our essential services. Many of us have given up all we had to come and live here – we have sold our homes, quit our jobs, left behind our families – all to make New Zealand our home. Unfortunately, the sentence we hear most often is that we should simply ‘go home’. We wish to make it clear that New Zealand is our home. We are proud that this is the case, and believe that this government could show true leadership in making this a reality – in seeking to build on the enthusiasm ‘New Kiwis’ have for their country, rather than setting them in opposition to those who were lucky enough to have been born here.

We count among our number people who have had to seek new jobs as a result of Covid-19, as well as many who live with a level of uncertainty about their jobs, and who are unable to seek other work due to visa restrictions. In addition, current restrictions on those who don’t hold residence visas are, we believe, harmful to native New Zealanders on lower incomes. For instance, many of us would be in a position to buy a house if we were allowed to – but because we don’t have residence this is not open to us – the result is that many of us are forced into renting housing, which is massively increasing the pressure on the rental market, and forcing prices up beyond the reach of New Zealanders on lower incomes. A residence amnesty would also help this issue.

At the same time, INZ is facing a huge backlog of applicants for residence, with which it is slowly making progress, but which it was struggling to manage even before the current pandemic. We understand that INZ faces many issues – not least the move from a paper-based assessment system to an electronic application system. And the queue of people waiting on residence does not help that. At this time, while the border of New Zealand remains closed to all but citizens and those already holding residence, it would seem an ideal time for INZ to be able to deal with its systematic issues. If the queue of those holding temporary work visas and seeking residence could be dealt with in one go, that would of course free INZ up to deal with these kinds of issues.

This is a bold request – and not one likely to receive huge support outside of the migrant community and those who support us. But we have been hearing now for many months that we should be kind to one another. We are asking this government – in effect, our government – to show us a kindness in difficult times. We – migrant workers living in New Zealand, are committed to this being our home – we wish to work here, raise families here, pay taxes here. And to help rebuild New Zealand in the wake of a pandemic none of us saw coming.

On that basis, we seek the following:

- a grant of residence status to all migrant workers who were in New Zealand on 19th March 2020 when the borders closed, who currently hold a valid working visa and are in employment or have been made redundant/lost they jobs because of the Covid-19 outbreak
- to include family members of this class of people are also currently resident in New Zealand
- a clean criminal records check
- have passed the medical required for their work visa
- are under the age of 55
- this amnesty visa being a path to citizenship after 5 years (as with current residence class visas)
- people holding this status to have no recourse to public funds (e.g. social security) until they obtain citizenship

Ngā mihi nui

The migrant workers of New Zealand.