Politics

Visa price hike plans revealed

Visitors heading to New Zealand for work or play may face price hikes at the border, as the Government tries to tackle rising pressure on the country’s infrastructure and immigration system.

The price of work visas is set to rise by 54 percent in a bid to close a funding gap at Immigration New Zealand and beef up border security, while an international visitor levy is also set to be introduced.

MBIE has opened consultation on the proposals, revealed by Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis at an industry event in Wellington.

A discussion document says price hikes to visa and immigration fees are needed to fund nearly $120 million in increased visa processing costs and $40m to improve border security and the regulation of immigration advisers.

The increases would also cover a shortfall in recent years, when the Government failed to collect enough money to cover Immigration New Zealand’s costs.

The document says the deficit would be paid off over three to five years, but does not specify its size.

Work visas would increase in price by 54 percent under the proposal, with the exception of the RSE and working holiday schemes and humanitarian work visas.

Immigration levies would rise by 43 percent under the proposal, from $580 to $829 at the highest level.

There would be an unspecified increase to the employer accreditation fee - currently $1775 - for companies who want access to a streamlined recruitment process for migrant workers.

Cutting immigration levels was a major topic for the coalition parties during last year’s election campaign.

Labour said it would reduce net migration by 20,000 to 30,000 people - although it later claimed the figure was not a target but an “estimate” - while New Zealand First suggested a sharper reduction.

The visa price hikes received no mention in a press release from Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis, heralding plans to introduce an international visitor levy.

Davis said the levy, which will cost between $25 and $35 and generate up to $80m a year, was “a smarter way to fund the great infrastructure tourists need to make the most of their time here”.

The levy would be collected through visa applications and a proposed Electronic Travel Authority for non-visa visitors, with exemptions for citizens of Australia and a number of Pacific countries.

Davis said the success of New Zealand as a tourist burden came with a burden on public infrastructure, and many regions were struggling to cope.

The levy would be part of new legislation and was likely to come into force in the second half of 2019, he said.

The Government is carrying out public consultation on the proposals until July 15.

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