Labour Party challenger Jacinda Ardern has become prime minister of New Zealand after reaching a deal with the New Zealand First party to run a coalition government. At 37, Ardern will become the youngest prime minister of New Zealand in modern times.

After an inconclusive election last month in which no party won a majority, the coalition government will blend the center-left Labour Party with the populist NZ First Party. Immigration was a hot-button campaign issue, as migration has reached record levels in recent years.

Positions on immigration:

  • Ardern has promised to cut net migration by 20,000 to 30,000 per year, impose stricter labor market testing for companies that seek to hire foreign workers, and eliminate student visas for “low value” coursework.
  • NZ First advocates slashing net migration to 10,000 per year (down from the current 72,000), strictly controlling family migration, and making it harder for foreigners to become permanent residents.
  • New Zealand recently launched a set of “Kiwis first” immigration policies that limit the skilled jobs able to be filled by foreign workers, introduce higher salary thresholds, and restrict the ability of low-skilled foreign workers and their families to live and work in New Zealand.

BAL Analysis: While it’s too early to tell whether the new government’s immigration policies will significantly differ from established immigration policy of “Kiwis first,” the backing of NZ First does indicate that stricter immigration policies may be on the way, especially for lower-skilled workers. BAL is following developments and will report any significant changes.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in New Zealand. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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