Immigration Alert: Changes to Essential Skills Work Visa and Skilled Migrant Category Residency coming into effect from 28 August 2017

Immigration Alert: Changes to Essential Skills Work Visa and Skilled Migrant Category Residency coming into effect from 28 August 2017

Some migrant workers and their employers may now breathe a sigh of relief in response to yesterday's announcement made by the Immigration Minister concerning the impending changes to the Essential Skills Work Visa scheme and Skilled Migration Category Residency.

The media has been quick to report that the Government has partially backed down on immigration changes to raise the skill level of migrant workers wanting to live in New Zealand. In our opinion the impact of the Government’s changes to the policy as originally proposed is minor; albeit significant for those who will now meet the revised salary threshold. 

We also consider that the imposition of a salary threshold is altogether ill conceived in the current New Zealand context. Under the current Essential Skills Work Visa policy, except where there is recognised skills shortage in the New Zealand labour market, the employer must satisfy Immigration New Zealand that there are no available New Zealanders who can, or can be trained, to do the job before resorting to hiring migrants. Placing a salary threshold on migrants, will not make New Zealanders suddenly become available where they weren’t previously.

In our view the Government needs to apply greater flexibility to its immigration policy. The labour market requirements of the regions and the larger cities outside Auckland may well be different to Auckland. If the Government wants to turn the ‘migrant tap’ down for Auckland that needs to be done in a way that doesn’t negatively impact on the rest of the country. Imposing one size fits all changes to migration policy that will affect the whole country in order to address problems that are supposedly driven in Auckland is not smart thinking. 

Changes in a nutshell

Essential Skills Work Visa

The proposed income threshold of $48,895 flagged in April 2017 during the consultation process has been lowered to $41,538 per annum (or just under $20 per hour) as a result of feedback.

From 28 August 2017, any migrant earning below the $41,538 threshold will be considered in lower-skilled employment, eligible for a maximum duration of 12 months on their Work Visa and subject to stand down period of 12 months after three years. Migrants in this category won't be able to bring partners or children with them unless those partners/children qualify for visas in their own right or only come as short-term visitors to New Zealand.

The Minister has confirmed that these changes will be introduced on 28 August 2017 alongside the changes announced to the Skilled Migrant Category.

Skilled Migrant Category

Skilled Migrant Category is the most common pathway to residence. From 28 August 2017, for employment to be considered skilled, new additional requirements, will also take into account the applicant’s salary. To be eligible, migrants will need to have an annual base salary of at least $41,538.  

For jobs that are not currently considered skilled, they would qualify where the applicant’s annual base salary is at least $73,299 a year. 

Changes will also put more focus on skilled work experience, more recognition of skill levels in the 30-39 year age group and high salary levels.

Immigration New Zealand are aiming to make more information on this available shortly.

So make sure you keep abreast with the developments in this area as they have the potential to have a significant impact on the immigration industry.

Talk to us 

Contact our Immigration Team today to discuss how we can assist you.

Disclaimer: This article should not be used as a substitute for immigration / legal advice tailored for your specific circumstances. If you are not confident as to your competency in this area of immigration law and practice the writer recommends you obtain immigration/legal advice before taking action in relation to any matter addressed in this article. 

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Mike McMellon

Position: Partner
Email: mike.mcmellon@pittandmoore.co.nz
DDI: +64 3 545 6710