in 2023 election: National leader Christopher Luxon reveals technology and visa policy

A visa for graduates from the world’s top 100 universities and another visa for those with special technology skills are part of National’s plan to help the economy recover.

The policy was announced in Auckland by party leader Christopher Luxon, national immigration spokeswoman Erica Stanford and science innovation and technology spokeswoman Judith Collins.

Luxon began the briefing by saying the election campaign was “all about the economy”, criticizing Labour’s economic record revealed in books released earlier this week.

“We’re going to clean up this mess that Labor has left behind.”

Today, the party announced a plan to boost the growth of the tech sector.

Features include:

  • Offer the International Graduate Visa, a three-year open-work visa for people who have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher at one of the world’s top 100 universities within the last five years. In the first year, this visa will initially be limited to 500 successful applicants.
  • The new Global Growth Technology Visa is a residency visa for people with highly specialized skills who have worked at a top global technology company earning at least $400,000 per year. This visa will initially be limited to 250 successful applicants in the first year.
  • The Digital Nomad Visa is a 12 month visa designed to attract skilled mobile people to come to New Zealand to work remotely for a company based overseas, with the option to apply for a work or residence visa later if they choose to stay. This visa will initially be limited to 250 successful applicants in the first year.
  • Support for Startups – Explore changes to the taxation of options issued by startups to their employees to help attract and retain talent in their early years.
  • Appoint a technology minister – to work with the technology sector to create the right policy and regulatory environment to support more innovation and faster growth

Luxon says some of the ideas announced today came from people in the technology sector.

In response to questions from reporters, he says he expects “high demand for visas” and that there is already a vibrant tech sector here and he just needed global skills to make New Zealand companies more successful on the global stage.

He disagreed that politics was somehow elitist. “We want the best talent in the world to be able to come here to New Zealand and work with the best talent in New Zealand and create an opportunity for ourselves.”

The country needs a more productive economy, and raising technology would also raise wages.

Luxon says the country needs faster growth from the technology sector, which has unlimited potential. He says the government could help create an environment for tech businesses to thrive.

Most importantly, the immigration system should be improved.

To be eligible for new Global Growth Technology visa applications, you must have worked for a top global company and earn at least $400,000 per year.

“Technology companies often cite skills and experience shortages as one of the key barriers to growth in New Zealand’s technology and innovation sector,” says Collins.

The party says that in order to qualify for the new international graduate visa, people must have completed a “highly specialized qualification” at one of the world’s top 100 universities within the last five years.

National Immigration Representative Erica Stanford.
Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Stanford says New Zealand needs a smarter approach to immigration that focuses on attracting highly talented people with the skills, knowledge and experience Kiwi companies need to grow.

She says the country’s immigration system is too strict and not very innovative, and we’re not getting the skills we need to “step up.” Only 51 tech people came to the country under the green visa in the last year. “We can do better and we can aim higher.

Applicants will not need a job offer under the International Graduate Visa. “We want young talented, highly skilled, mobile people with transferable skills… We want New Zealand to be the best place for young, highly educated young people.”

Stanford says she is most excited about global growth technology, which she says is targeting the world’s best talent and is very attractive. She describes it as a “red carpet visa” and those who come would have a “multiplier effect” and “incredible impact” in helping tech companies scale.

As for the digital nomad visa, she hopes that successful applicants will receive a visa for 12 months so that they fall in love with the country and decide to stay.

Collins says technology is the country’s second-largest export, generating $11.49 billion. USD or 14 percent of export earnings last year.

It consisted of 20,000 small businesses employing more than 114,000 people and needing another 4,000-5,000 people every year.

“So we are the new country in New Zealand and we need to be an enlarged nation.”

Collins says the sector has wanted a voice at the cabinet table for some time, and the new minister will be part of Luxon’s government.

“One priority would be to review the treatment of employee share option plans – the changes made in 2018 worked against employees being unable to exercise their share options and retain qualified staff. So after the election, National would start working with the IRD to reverse these changes ,” Collins says.

“It will overlap with Australia and the US and work will start immediately after the election.”

For those offered visas, Stanford says it will be important to collect data on how long they stay, whether they decide to settle and what impact they have. She says the Department of Immigration has not done the job for the past six years and that will have to change if National wins power.

Labor leader Chris Hipkins has accused National of “clickbait” politics that look good on the surface but have no substance.

He compares one of the visas to the millionaire investor visa category he promoted years ago, which only attracted “one or two people.”

Chris Hipkins says he doesn’t want Kiwis to lose their tech jobs.

Godfrey Kemp

"Bacon fanatic. Social media enthusiast. Music practitioner. Internet scholar. Incurable travel advocate. Wannabe web junkie. Coffeeaholic. Alcohol fanatic."