Election 2023: National leader Christopher Luxon reveals technology and visa policy

National Party reveals Technology Sector
By RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission

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

The policy has been announced in Auckland by party leader Christopher Luxon, National’s Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford and Science Innovation and Technology spokesperson Judith Collins.

Luxon started the briefing by saying the election campaign is “all about the economy” working in some criticism of Labour’s economic performance revealed by the books being opened earlier this week.

“We will clean up this mess Labour has left behind.”

The party has released a plan to boost growth in the tech sector today.

Features include:

  • Offer an international graduates visa – a three-year open work visa for people who have graduated with a Bachelor’s degree or higher within the last five years from one of the top 100 universities in the world. This visa will initially be capped at 500 successful applicants in the first year.
  • A new global growth tech visa – a residence visa for people with highly specialised skills who have worked at a top global tech company earning at least $NZ400,000 per annum. This visa will initially be capped at 250 successful applicants in the first year.
  • A digital nomad visa – a 12-month visa to attract skilled mobile people to come to New Zealand while working remotely for an overseas-based company, with the option to apply for a work or residence visa later if they choose to stay. This visa will initially be capped at 250 successful applicants in the first year.
  • Supporting startups – investigate changes to the tax treatment of options issued by startups to their staff to make it easier to attract and retain talent in their early years
  • Appoint a Minister of Technology – to work with the tech sector to create the right policy and regulatory environment to support more innovation and faster growth

Luxon says some of the ideas being announced today have come from input from representatives of the tech sector.

Responding to journalists questions, he says he expects “significant demand” for the visas and there is already a vibrant tech sector here and it just needed a global input of skills to help New Zealand companies be more successful on the world stage.

He disagreed the policy was in any way elitist. “We want the world’s best talent to be able to come here to New Zealand and partner with New Zealand’s best talent and create the opportunity for ourselves.”

The country needs a more productive economy and by lifting tech, salaries would also be lifted.

Luxon says the country needs faster growth from the tech sector which has unlimited potential. The government could assist by creating the environment for tech businesses to flourish, he says.

Most importantly, there would need to be improvements to the immigration system.

To be eligible for a new global growth tech visa applications must have worked at a top global company and be earning at least $400,000 a year.

“Lack of access to skills and expertise is often raised by tech firms as one of the main barriers to growing New Zealand’s technology and innovation sector,” Collins says.

For a new international graduates visa people would need to have graduated with “highly specialised skills” from one of the world’s top 100 universities within the last five years, the party says.

Erica Stanford

National's Immigration spokesperson 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 expertise Kiwi firms need to grow.

She says the country’s immigration system is too rigid and not very innovative, and we’re not getting the skills we need “to power up”. Under the green visa only 51 tech people have come into the country in the last year. “We can do better and we can aim higher.

Under the international graduates visa the candidates would not need a job offer. “We’re after young talented highly educated mobile people who have transferable skills… We want New Zealand to be a top destination for young highly educated young people.”

Stanford says she’s most excited by the global growth tech via, which she says is aimed at the world’s top talent and is very attractive. She describes it as “a red carpet visa” and those who came would have “a multiplier effect” and “incredible impact” on assisting tech companies expand.

On the digital nomad visa she says the hope is that while the successful applicants will get a visa for 12 months that they might fall in love with the country and decide to stay.

Collins says tech is the country’s second biggest export earner – generating $11.49 billion or 14 percent of export revenue last year.

It comprised 20,000 small businesses employing over 114,000 people and needing another 4000 – 5000 people annually.

“So we are something of a startup nation in New Zealand and we need to be a scaled up nation.”

The sector had wanted a voice at the Cabinet table for some time, Collins says, and a new minister would be part of a Luxon government.

“One priority would be a rethink of treatment of employee share option plans – changes introduced in 2018 have worked against employees being able to exercise their share options and retain skilled staff. So National would start work with IRD post-election to reverse these changes,” Collins says.

“This will bring us into line with Australia and also the US and work will begin immediately after the election.”

Stanford says for those on the proposed visas it will be important to collect data on how long they stay, whether they decide to take up residency and what impact they have. She says the Immigration Ministry has not done this work in the last six years and that will have to change if National wins power.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins is accusing National of producing clickbait policy which looks good on the surface, but lacks substance.

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

Chris Hipkins says he doesn’t want to see Kiwis missing out on tech sector jobs.

Sometimes when a business is growing, it needs a little help.

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