The Short Term Employment Permit for New Zealand Passport Holders (STePNZ) was first trialled for 12 months from November 1, 2016, with a total of 15 applications made under the programme.
Upon arrival in the Cook Islands, all 15 applicants were able to begin work immediately. Their employers applied for work permits after their arrival, as opposed to the regular process which requires permits to be applied for before employees actually arrive in this country.
Responding to clear support for STePNZ at a public stakeholders meeting reviewing the programme, Cabinet has approved a further one-year extension, as well as opening the programme up to Australian passport holders.
A new feature of the programme includes shorter process times for medical clearance with the Ministry of Health.
Secretary for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Anne Herman, said the ministry was looking forward to receiving more applications in the upcoming second year of the STePNZ programme.
“We encourage employers across the different industries to look into this fast-track work permit process for any short-term human resource requirements they may have in their businesses,” she said.
The STePNZ pilot programme is a joint collaboration between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (INTAFF).
The government programme was created in response to the problems experienced by the private sector with a shortage of skilled workers, particularly in the hospitality industry.
It was originally aimed at New Zealand passport holders willing to work in the Cook Islands on a short-term contract. The work permit under this programme is valid for six months and can only be extended once.