Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse today announced a package of changes designed to better manage immigration and improve the long-term labour market contribution of temporary and permanent migration.The Government is currently reviewing temporary visa settings to ensure future lower-skilled temporary migrants do not end up in the same situation.
The major changes are
The automatic selection mark for applicants under the SMC( skilled migration category) was increased from 140 points to 160 in October last year and the Government has now realigned the points system to put more emphasis on characteristics associated with better outcomes for migrants.
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More points will be available for skilled work experience and some recognised post graduate qualifications, and points for age will increase for applicants aged 30-39.
Points will no longer be available for qualifications in areas of absolute skills shortage, for employment, work experience and qualifications in Identified Future Growth Areas and for close family in New Zealand.
The Minister also announced a new policy to provide a one-off pathway to residence for around 1,600 migrant workers and their families who have been living in the South island for more than five years.
In this case all eligible migrants will be granted an initial Work to Residence temporary visa, which would make them eligible for residence after two years provided they stay in the same industry and region. They will then be granted a resident visa, with conditions requiring them to stay in the same South Island region for a further two years.
The new policy is scheduled to come into effect on 22 May 2017. Applications will be accepted for 12 months from the effective date. Immigration instructions and further information will be available on the INZ website closer to the launch of the policy.
The changes of SMC( skilled Migrant category) include:
The introduction of remuneration bands to determine the skill level of an Essential Skills visa holder, which would align with the remuneration thresholds being introduced for Skilled Migrant Category applicants
The introduction of a maximum duration of three years for lower-skilled and lower-paid Essential Skills visa holders, after which a minimum stand down period will apply before they are eligible for another lower-skilled temporary work visa.
Aligning the ability of Essential Skills visa holders to bring their children and partners to New Zealand with the new skill levels.
Exploring which occupations have a seasonal nature and ensuring that the length of the visa aligns with peak labour demand.
The changes will be implemented in mid-August 2017
“I want to make it clear that where there are genuine labour or skills shortages, employers will be able to continue to use migrant labour to fill those jobs,” Mr Woodhouse says to media.
“However, the Government has a Kiwis first approach to immigration and these changes are designed to strike the right balance between reinforcing the temporary nature of Essential Skills work visas and encouraging employers to take on more Kiwis and invest in the training to upskill them.
“We have always said that we constantly review our immigration policies to ensure they are fit for purpose and today’s announcement is another example of this Government’s responsible, pragmatic approach to managing immigration.”
Public consultation on the changes to temporary migration settings closes on 21 May, with implementation planned for later this year.
““The Government is committed to ensuring inward migration best supports the economy and the labour market,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“It’s important that our immigration settings are attracting the right people, with the right skills, to help fill genuine skill shortages and contribute to our growing economy.
“That is why we are making a number of changes to our permanent and temporary immigration settings aimed at managing the number and improving the quality of migrants coming to New Zealand.”
Two remuneration thresholds are being introduced for applicants applying for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC). One will be set at the New Zealand median income of $48,859 a year for jobs that are currently considered skilled. The other threshold will be set at 1.5 times the New Zealand median income of $73,299 a year for jobs that are not currently considered skilled but are well paid.
Changes to permanent immigration settings include introducing two remuneration thresholds for applicants applying for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC), which will complement the current qualifications and occupation framework.
“One remuneration threshold will be set at the New Zealand median income of $48,859 a year for jobs that are currently considered skilled. The other threshold will be set at 1.5 times the New Zealand median income of $73,299 a year for jobs that are not currently considered skilled but are well paid,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“The SMC points table, under which individuals claim points towards their residence application, will also be realigned to put more emphasis on characteristics associated with better outcomes for migrants.
“Collectively these changes will improve the skill composition of the SMC and ensure we are attracting migrants who bring the most economic benefits to New Zealand.”
The Government is also proposing a number of changes to temporary migration settings to manage the number and settlement expectations of new migrants coming to New Zealand on Essential Skills work visas.