Travel concerns ease for Filipino nurses in Aotearoa

July 1, 2021

Restrictions on Filipino nurses trying to travel to New Zealand for work appear to have been lifted.

In January, several nurses heading for New Zealand were stopped at Manila Airport, as part of a Philippines Government visa crackdown.

Philippines ambassador to New Zealand Jesus Domingo said in May that urgent talks were underway with New Zealand authorities to smooth the way for Filipino nurses to work in New Zealand.

Auckland nurse Melody Opanes-Kircher, who administers a social media group for Filipino nurses working in New Zealand, with 43,000 members, said many travel to New Zealand on a visitor’s or short-term visa to complete their competency assessment programme (CAP) before finding work and converting their visas.

However, the Philippines Government appeared to have taken a harder line this year over citizens leaving the country on a one-way ticket without work or student visas, she said.

But restrictions appeared to have been lifted recently, she said, with nurses reporting they were able to travel with no problems.

Domingo confirmed restrictions had eased until later this year, as bilateral discussions continued.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) spokesperson said New Zealand had sought to reassure the Philippines over the visa process for nurses.

Filipino nurses make up 10 per cent of the workforce in New Zealand, according to the Nursing Council.

The Philippines has increased its quota of nurses who can work overseas from 5000 to 6500, the NZ Aged Care Association says.

However, this would not have a significant impact on New Zealand, where the aged care sector was facing a shortage of up to 500 nurses, chief executive Simon Wallace said.

MFAT advised him that health-care workers with employment contracts at May 31, 2021, would be allowed to leave and take up their offshore work.

Recruitment agencies were pushing for the cap to be raised to 10,000, Wallace said, but it was a situation the Government had little control over.