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New Zealand Eases Border for ICT Tech Workers

In a bid to attract the best tech talent from around the world to the island nation, New Zealand is easing its border restrictions for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) workers. Already, the process to apply for 600 border exceptions for tech workers is in full swing and businesses can apply for an industry nomination via the leading tech industry groups, namely NZTech or IT Professionals NZ.

Indeed, this can be a great start for the nation in its digital transformation plans. From the onset, it shows how much the country is committed to boosting its digital economy by encouraging quality talent to come in.

NZTech,  the government-funded marketing arm designed to boost New Zealand technology to the world, is at the forefront in these border exceptions. Graeme Muller, NZTech Chief Executive, confirms the country’s need for tech workers as the New Zealand digital economy is expanding. But more may be needed to meet the demand.

This is a drop in the ocean for the actual numbers needed to support the continued growth of New Zealand’s tech sector and the growing number of critical digital projects across multiple government agencies and large businesses, however, it will definitely help reduce some of the pressure. 

– NZTech Chief Executive Graeme Muller

Once processed, the 600 visas should jumpstart talent acquisition for the country. It will allow the fast-growing tech sector and other sectors where digital skills are in high demand to finally start attracting some of the world’s best tech talent into New Zealand.

Earlier, research showed how much the island nation needs talent. The Digital Skills for our Digital Future report released in 2021 highlighted New Zealand’s digital skills mismatch, driven by increasing demand for people with advanced skills while at the same time producing a low level of graduates that lack the required experience.

Mueller notes that there were between 3500 and 4500 IT visas issued each year for the past five years to address this widening gap. The skills mismatch became a critical skills shortage with the closing of the New Zealand borders in response to the pandemic.

The border exception is available for specific roles that are in the highest demand. Some of the jobs it includes are:

  • software developers
  • security specialists
  • ICT managers
  • multimedia specialists.

Muller advises that more information is available via the nomination application page. That includes multiple sub-roles or job titles that fall within these broader role categories. Moreover, companies wishing to bring workers in must note that the role being offered and the worker must meet certain requirements and industry expectations which are detailed in the nomination guide.

Given the need to balance immigration and domestic skills development, employers seeking industry nominations are expected to be engaged in a programme to support domestic skills development. That means they should be working together as a member of a relevant industry body.

New Zealand is pulling out all the stops to transform itself into one of the world’s leading ICT destinations. In the background, the island nation has been known as a largely agricultural society. While agriculture still is its largest industry, slowly but surely, it is pivoting to become one of the foremost technology-oriented nations.

With that goal in hand, it’s carefully charting a digital course that injects the notion of ethics into the conversation. For example, as reported on OpenGov Asia, the country is set to form an ethical Artificial Intelligence (AI) strategy by involving a wide range of stakeholders.


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