New Zealand has a lot going for it, like its pleasant climate, laid-back lifestyle, family-friendly environment, scenic beauty, low crime rate, modern infrastructure and ample space. The citizens of this island nation are known to be warm, welcoming and friendly English-speaking people. It is therefore no surprise that the Land of the White Cloud usually scores very well in terms of quality of life in most surveys. Students and skilled workers from all over the world are looking at this country as their next expat destination, primarily because of the educational and career opportunities it has to offer.However, moving to a new place can be quite a challenge, especially when reforms are being made to existing migration laws. It could be a while before people have complete clarity with regard to the changes that have been implemented and you get a better perspective on how best to proceed with your application. Recently, the government of New Zealand announced that a number of revisions have been designed to manage the immigration system in a better manner and improve the contribution of permanent and temporary migration in the labor market. This could have an impact, positive or adverse, on your plans to relocate to the island.
The authorities of New Zealand offer a wide variety of visa options to foreigners, based on the purpose of their visit and the duration of their stay. British nationals can enter this country without a visa and are allowed to stay for up to 6 months, after which they are required to file some paperwork.
Those who are interested in moving to New Zealand for work have to obtain a work permit. One of the options worth considering is the essential skills visa, aimed at qualified workers below the age of 55, who can fill the gaps in skills required. This type of visa is generally granted for a period of 3 years, but if the job you are performing meets the highest level of ranking by the government and if you earn a minimum of NZ $ 76,125 (US $ 55,000; £ 28,200; € 49,350) a year, you could be allowed to stay for 5 years. However, people engaged in low-ranking jobs are given just a one-year visa.
Other options include the working holiday visa for skilled professionals under the age of 30, which is valid for the duration of 23 months, and the work to residence visa for employees from overseas, who have been offered jobs in occupations that are on the list of long-term skills shortage or have been accredited by employers.
Changes to the Skilled Migrant Category
According to the new immigration reforms, two remuneration thresholds are going to be introduced for those interested in applying for residency under the Skilled Migrant Category, or SMC. The first one will be set at the median income of NZ $ 48,859 (US $ 35,300; £ 27,728; € 31,675) a year, for any jobs that are regarded as skilled. The second threshold has been set at almost twice the median income, at NZ $ 73,299 (US $ 52,959; £ 41,598; € 47,519) for jobs that are not currently considered skilled but are well-paid nevertheless. The authorities are not planning to introduce any regional variations for the salary thresholds.
Moreover, in the last quarter of 2016, the automatic selection cut off for applicants under the SMC went up to 160 points, from 140. The whole points system has been realigned by the government, so that more emphasis is placed on the characteristics that are associated with better outcomes for potential migrants. Additional points will therefore be given to those who have prior skilled work experience as well as some kind of recognized post graduate degree. The points for age will also be increased.
Per the revised settings, points will no longer be given to applicants for their
• Qualifications in the areas of absolute skills shortage
• Skilled employment, work experience and qualifications in Identified Future Growth areas
• Close family
The objective of making these amendments to the SMC is to improve the composition of skills being imported into New Zealand and ensure that the country is attracting the right type of migrants, preferably those who bring about the maximum benefit to the local economy. Several aspects of the existing policy will be affected by the changes made, including
• The manner in which “skilled employment” and “work experience” will be assessed and given points
• The number of points awarded for age and qualifications
• Points earlier allotted to a few factors will be taken off
Contrary to what some may believe, the changes have not been designed with the intent to allow fewer people to be granted residency under the SMC. Of course, there will be some impact on individuals in low-paid jobs. However, the changes aim to expand the definition of skilled employment, which will now allow certain individuals to obtain a residency permit; previously, these people could not claim points for their employment in New Zealand. People who are not currently regarded as skilled workers because their jobs are not in alignment with the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) skill levels 1, 2 or 3, will be able to get a specified number of points for their jobs, as long as they are earning a minimum of NZ $ 73,299 per year.
The amendments have placed a higher amount of focus on skilled work experience. At the same time, additional recognition is given to high salary levels and the level of skill in the 30 to 39 age group. Below are some of the key highlights of specific changes in each policy area.
• The number of points awarded to the offer of skilled employment and current skilled employment in New Zealand will be the same.
• Thresholds for remuneration are being introduced as an additional way in which skilled employment can be defined.
• Any applicant with a job at ANZSCO skill level 1, 2 and 3 can only be awarded points for their employment if they are paid a minimum of NZ $ 48,859 each year. This roughly equates to NZ $ 23.50 (US $ 16.98, £ 13.33, € 15.23) an hour.
• Applicants will be awarded bonus points of they are drawing NZ $ 97,718 (US $ 70,562, £ 55,425, € 63,310) or more a year. This equates to approximately NZ $ 46.98 (US $ 33.92, £ 26.65, € 30.45) an hour.
• The thresholds for remuneration will be updated on a yearly basis, based on income data across New Zealand.
• Applicants with skilled work experience in ANZSCO skill level 1, 2 and 3 occupations will be awarded points
• Skilled New Zealand work experience of 12 months and more will be awarded points. No additional points will be given to work experience of 2 years and more.
Age, Qualifications and Partner’s Qualifications
• There will be an increase in the points awarded to people aged 30 to 39
• The points awarded to a recognized Level 9 or 10 postgraduate degree (Master’s and Doctorates) will be higher.
• The qualifications of a partner will only be given additional points if they are a recognized degree at Bachelor’s level or higher. Recognized postgraduate degrees at Level 9 or higher will also be awarded points.
Factors without additional points
In the past, people applying for residency under the SMC could get additional points if they fulfilled certain criteria. However, they will no longer get additional points for
• Qualifications, work experience and skilled employment in Identified Future Growth Areas
• Qualifications in the areas of absolute skills shortage
• Close family support in the country
Applicants should note that no amendments have been made to the aspects of Health, Character and English Language.
Changes to Selection Points
At this stage, most applicants are worried that there may be a revision in the selection point when the SMC reforms are put into effect. However, the selection point is an aspect that can be controlled by the Ministry of Immigration, according to the overall planning range of the New Zealand Residency Program. It may therefore change at any time, according to requirements. In the current scenario, there is no information on whether the selection point is likely to be revised when the SMC reforms are implemented.
SMC Reforms for Students
In the past few years, many young adults have moved to New Zealand on student visas in the hope of meeting the points threshold when they eventually apply for residency under the SMC program. To them, the amendments are a major cause for concern and confusion.
When filling in their application, these students will have to meet the SMC criteria in order to be awarded the required number of points.
If an applicant’s Expression of Interest (EoI) is selected from the SMC pool before the change to the new policy takes effect, they will have to apply under the current rules as long as their selection results in an invitation to apply.
More information is available on the government’s website.