New Zealand Echoes Trump With ‘Kiwi First Approach’ To Immigration

PHOTO: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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New Zealand announced Tuesday it will limit access to skilled worker visas, following similar moves by its neighbor Australia and the United States.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said New Zealand is tightening restrictions on the country’s guest worker program in a “Kiwis-first approach to immigration,” Reuters reported.

“These changes are designed to strike the right balance … and encourage employers to take on more Kiwis and invest in the training to upskill them,” Woodhouse said in a statement.

The modifications are slated to go into effect later this year. They include a minimum income requirement, restrictions on family members moving with visa holders, and limits on the amount of time seasonal workers are allowed to stay in New Zealand.

Immigration policy is a major point of contention leading up to New Zealand’s Sept. 23 general election, Reuters reports. While supporters of immigration say the new arrivals boost New Zealand’s GDP growth, opponents argue that changes to immigration policy are needed to address sluggish wage growth and skyrocketing housing prices.

New Zealand’s announcement comes a day after Australia initiated a reform of its own visa program for temporary foreign workers. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the so-called “457” visa will be replaced by two categories of skilled worker visas that require more work experience and better English skills. (RELATED: Aussie PM ‘Puts Australia First,’ Restricts Immigration)

“We will no longer allow 457 visas to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians,” Turnbull said. “We’re putting jobs first, and we’re putting Australians first.”

Both announcements echo President Donald Trump’s “America First” rhetoric on strengthening protections for domestic workers from foreign labor. Trump signed an executive order Tuesday called “Buy American and Hire American” that ordered a review of the H-1B visa program. U.S. companies use the program to hire temporary foreign workers for technical positions. (RELATED: Donald Trump’s Latest Executive Order Aims To Make Companies ‘Hire American’)

“It [H-1B] has led to a flood of relatively low-wage, low-skill workers in the tech sector,” a White House official told reporters Monday. “Our goal is to ensure that U.S. workers who are just as qualified, willing and deserving to work in these fields are not ignored or otherwise unfairly disadvantaged in the H-1B process.”

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