The NZ Immigration landscape saw big changes last year; what will the Government and our employers need to focus on this year to improve labour shortages?
February 8, 2023
2022 saw an almost total rehaul of New Zealand Immigration last year as our borders reopened. Almost every segment has been affected - from critical workers, parents, employers, investors visas and visitors.
This year will be a year of action as the General Election approaches, with the Government & Immigration NZ focusing on smoothing out any issues with their new immigration strategy, and ensuring our labour market finds the support it needs to support economic growth.
The question this year will be are all the changes enough to help us compete for top-talent in a competitive global labour market.
Immigration 2022: A Look Back at the Restart.
Restarting the flow of migrant workers after the pandemic has been a complicated one for Immigration NZ and New Zealand employers this year. With multiple changes including the new Accredited Employer work visa; increasing the Skilled Migrant Visa points system and the continuing amendments to our critical occupations list to name just a few.
Net Migration statistics are still provisionally far lower than their previous average prior to the pandemic. With fewer new arrivals and Kiwis now being able to find work overseas, the labour shortage is a big concern employers have in 2023 as a potential recession looms. In a Business NZ Network survey 87% of employers found it difficult or very difficult to fill staff vacancies over the last year*.
This year we will see the Government’s new immigration policies mature. Immigration NZ and Service providers in this industry will be working hard to fine tune their processes to support the changes. With lower queues expected, the aim of quick visa turnarounds should eventuate.
Sectors who were reliant on minimum wage and overseas worker support, will need to find ways to adjust their business model or increase wages, before the increase of the median wage comes in February. This could potentially mean price hikes for these services as they attempt to maintain profitability.
New approvals to residency categories can not be expected to meet pre-pandemic levels as the Government policy changes will be granting residency visas for quality and experience over lower skilled workers. Companies reliant on low skilled workers will need to learn to adapt to the changes.
After the rehaul of last year, migrants will have a clearer picture of who New Zealand will be prioritising. Some now are already benefiting from a lower queue volume and seeing their visa processed far quicker than expected.
The new criteria for the Skilled Migrant visa will complicate pathways to residencies for some migrants already on our shores who will be unable to meet the criteria. It will also limit the amount of new applications from abroad, reducing the immigration queue to speed up the approval process.
The prioritisation of visas for critical roles on the Green List will also continue to evolve during the year.
Below is a list of key dates and changes announced by the Government so far:
18 January 2023. EOIs for the Skilled Migrant Category were selected again.
31 January 2023. People who hold a Working Holiday visa but didn't travel due to Covid-19 can get a new visa and are allowed to enter the country.
27 February 2023. The new median wage of NZ$29.66 an hour will be adopted into the immigration system.
March 2023. The Green list nz work to residence expands to include teachers as well as several construction specialisms.
May 2023. EOIs for Parent Resident visas can be submitted online on the Immigration New Zealand website.
August 2023. The first selection of the new EOIs for Parent Resident visas starts and is repeated every three months.
Late 2023: Skilled Migrant Worker Visa Changes Rolled (currently with the Government for final decisions after their amendment to the 6 point scheme )
Sectors in Need of Immigration Support in 2023
New Zealand’s labour shortages can hinder economic growth, infrastructure upgrades and our health and social sectors if gaps are not addressed well enough this year. The levels of highly skilled workers such as doctors, nurses and engineers need to be addressed by immigration efforts in order to help sustain our current population.
In 2022, Nursing Council estimates that they were understaffed by 4000 nurses. This continues to put pressure on our healthcare system. In its July workforce survey, 38% of nurses** responded to say they were either planning to find work overseas or are in the process of moving. With wages starting from $9000 more per annum in Australia, it becomes an enticing opportunity for both NZ citizens and new migrants deciding on where to settle.
Covid 19 has put a strain on the Government in terms of its ability to level the pay gap. Their current response is to invest in training higher levels of nurses and the fast track to residency option for nursing will help fill quoters.
Construction is the fifth largest sector in New Zealand’s economy, employing just over a quarter of a million people. Combined with a severe residential housing shortage as well as large scale Government infrastructure projects, employers across the board are desperate to fill highly-skilled vacancies. Immigration NZ estimates 4,800 new jobs a year will be filled in construction in the next five years to sustain these projects and economic growth.***
Staff shortages have affected major infrastructure projects in New Zealand. The high levels of skill required is not an easy one to fill from our shores alone. It can take up to 9 years of experience to gain competency in an engineering specialism. New Zealand is struggling to compete with other countries, as top talent is being paid at high rates overseas with the global shortage.
The Association of Consulting Engineers New Zealand (ACENZ) has estimated 1,500 more engineers are needed each year just to match economic growth.**** With the advent of the Government's major Three Waters investment for water, wastewater and stormwater delivery only adds more demand for this skill in New Zealand.
How can New Zealand Stay Competitive in the Global Job Market this Year?
New Zealand relies heavily on its reputation of having a healthy environment with a great work/life balance to entice new residents. The idea of finishing work and in thirty minutes being on the beach is a picture many of our international job posts paint to tempt individuals. However, how else can the Government and our Industries help to ensure a flow of skilled workers?
Pay & Benefits
The tension in the job market remains high in New Zealand, due to low availability of talent. New Zealanders as well as migrants benefiting from this as employers increase wages and benefits to attract workers. The Government's approach to the rebalancing of immigration continues to support this approach by ensuring a higher level of qualified workers apply, expecting competitive rates.
Clear, Fast Pathways to Residency
Uncertainty can be the main reason why migrants look to other shores for residency. For migrants looking to begin a new life, if a country is seen to be making too many changes or has a complicated system with a prolonged residency process this may put off many considering New Zealand as an option.
The NZ Government’s changes will help to reduce the confusion and uncertainty for migrants wanting to move here. The visa approval process is also a key aspect to get right. Large queues and long waiting times can be a determining factor in a decision whether to move to New Zealand.
Solutions for Families
Ensuring a secure family option for migration is essential to retain highly skilled workers for the long term. Whether it is the parents or the children, for New Zealand to allow a family to move together is important for the immigration decisions. The reopening of the Parent residency visa this year will help improve the support network of migrants allowing them to work and live with their family indefinitely.
Fast Track Critical Workers with the Green List.
The Green List is touted by the Government as the scheme to attract migrant workers based on guaranteed residency.
It is a list of critical roles New Zealand needs to grow our economy and to support our population.
Rewarding skilled migrants with the certainty of residence can be very appealing for those wishing to start a new life overseas with their families. And as it stands now in our current job market, the incentive of wages is not enough to attract many workers as we are competing with the likes of Australia and Canada who have high wage brackets for many industries.
More amendments to the Green List of critical occupations were released before the Christmas break to include teachers, health workers and more construction roles. There will be further adjustments this year to support our sectors.
Keeping Up-To-Date With NZ Visa Changes In 2023
INZ regularly releases updates about New Zealand visa applications and changes to the immigration system. You can also keep yourself informed about work visas, employer accreditation and immigration NZ news by subscribing to our newsletter or contacting our experienced immigration advisers.
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Today the government announced a pathway to residence for migrant workers who are living and working in New Zealand. Applications open on 1 December 2021 for the first wave who are eligible to apply. The second wave can apply from 1 March 2022. The deadline to lodge an application is 31 July 2022 or else they will miss out on this one off opportunity.
January 9, 2023
Skilled Migrants Opportunity
Today the government announced a pathway to residence for people living and working in New Zealand. Applications open on 1 December 2021 for the first wave eligible to apply. The second wave can apply from 1 March 2022. The deadline to lodge an application is 31 July 2022 or else you miss the boat.
January 9, 2023
New Employer Accreditation Process
The government has moved the introduction of the new employer accreditation process across to mid-2022. At the same time, the Minister of Immigration announced new work visa rules for migrant workers who are already in New Zealand and working full time.
January 9, 2023
Skilled Migrant Changes
The government has increased the median wage to $27 per hour from 19 July. Any Skilled Migrant residence application lodged after this date will need to include a skilled job offer that pays at least $27 per hour. For some lower-skilled occupations, the minimum pay rate increases to $40.50 per hour.
Employers of migrant workers must become accredited from 1 November 2021 before work visa applications can be processed. Most employers are not accredited. Those that are accredited will have to roll into the new system when it goes live in late September.
January 9, 2023
Work Visa Rules
From mid-2020 (delayed)
Government to negotiate and introduce Industry Sector agreements setting minimum conditions for industries that heavily rely on overseas workers. Sectors include; residential care, meat processing, dairy, forestry, road freight transport, tourism, and hospitality. Construction, horticulture, and viticulture may also be included.
Skilled occupation "Dairy Cattle Farmer" spilt into three occupations. New occupations are: "Dairy Farm Manager", "Assistant Dairy Farm Manager" and "Dairy Herd Manager". Each sit at different skill levels, therefore, the award of points will depend on pay rates, job tasks and other requirements.
Dairy Cattle Farmer job offers are now assessed by three new occupation descriptions: Dairy Farm Manager, Assistant Dairy Farm Manager and Dairy Herd Manager. Pay rates and job tasks will determine how long a work visa is valid. Take advice.
The government has deferred the fortnightly selection of Expressions of Interest from the Skilled Migrant pool for six months (to be reviewed in April 2021). Invitations to Apply for Residence remain suspended. The last selection from the Skilled Migrant pool took place on 18/03/2020.
Introduction of "Oversupply" and "Undersupply" occupation lists used to assess Essential Skills Work Visa applications when a job offer pays less than the median wage.
Employers offering jobs to migrant workers where an occupation is on the "Oversupply" list will not get Skill Match reports issued by Work & Income. Solid evidence of genuine attempts to find a local to fill the job will be critical for approval.
Anyone invited by Immigration NZ to apply for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category where their invitation is dated between 1 November 2019 and 15 April 2020 (inclusive) has now been granted an additional six months to lodge their residence application.
Regional Skill Shortage List goes live. 15 regions around New Zealand list occupations reflecting local skill shortages in each region. The labour market test is not mandatory provided the job offer matches the occupation and region plus the visa applicant has qualifications and/or work experience set out on the list.
The government has deferred the fortnightly selection of Expressions of Interest from the Skilled Migrant pool. This means Invitations to Apply for Residence are also suspended. Malcolm Pacific Immigration does not anticipate selections to resume until after the general election held on 17 October 2020.
Immigration NZ is now prioritising Skilled Migrant Residence applications where the main (principal) applicant meets the criteria:
Has employment paying double the median wage which is currently NZD $51 per hour OR NZD $106,800 per annum; OR Has New Zealand occupational registration and is required to hold valid registration to lawfully carry out their job.
The government recently added more occupations that are now to be regarded as skilled employment and may qualify for job offer points under the Skilled Migrant Category. In order to qualify for points, the job must be paying at least the current median wage (or higher for certain occupations) at the time the residence application is lodged.
From 1 November 2021 anyone who is not a NZ citizen must be fully vaccinated (unless exempt) before travelling to New Zealand. Fully vaccinated means your last dose of vaccine was given at least 14 days before travelling and it was an approved vaccine.
January 9, 2023
Applications for employer accreditation closed at the end of June 2021. Applications lodged before the closure date are still being processed. New applications for accreditation open on 9 May 2022. The process will be quite different to what employers have experienced in the past. Businesses will need to meet minimum standards.
January 9, 2023
2021 Resident Visa
Wednesday, 1 December is fast approaching and it is estimated that around 16,000 individuals and families can apply in the first wave for the 2021 Resident Visa opening next month. It is exciting for the thousands of people who have been waiting patiently to become residents that finally the finish line is in sight.
The first wave of applicants can apply from 1 December 2021. Around 16,000 applications are expected in this first wave. The second wave opens on 1 March 2022. In total, the government expects approximately 110,000 applications that will include about 165,000 people.
The second group of workers who can apply online for the 2021 Resident Visa that opens on 1 March 2022 are those who hold an eligible work visa and either meet "Settled", "Skilled" or "Scarce" as set out above. In total Immigration NZ estimate around 110,000 people will qualify to apply for this visa.
The first group of workers who can apply online for the 2021 Resident Visa that opens on 1 December 2021 are those that on 29/09/2021:
Had lodged a residence application under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) or Residence from Work category; OR Had lodged an SMC Expression of Interest (EOI) in the SMC pool that included at least one dependent child aged 17 or above.
People who were lawfully in NZ (or in Australia when the travel bubble closed between April and July 2021) on 29/09/2021 need to meet the visa eligibility criteria:
Workers in NZ who held an eligible work visa on or before 29/9/2021 and on the day they apply for residence; OR Applied for an eligible work visa on or before 29/9/2021 and the work visa application is subsequently approved and still hold an eligible work visa on the day they apply for residence.
The government has introduced a limited pathway to residence for people who are already living and working in New Zealand. Applications open on 1 December 2021 for the first wave of people eligible to apply. The second wave opens on 1 March 2022. The deadline to apply for the 2021 Resident Visa is 31 July 2022.
A small number of critical health workers (taking up jobs for six months or longer) or specialist workers (taking up jobs that are for longer than six months) who were granted border exemptions may also have eligibility for the 2021 Resident Visa. They will need to have arrived in NZ and lodge a 2021 Resident Visa application.
July 4. Applications open for the new Accredited Employer Work Visa.
July 31. Applications for the 2021 Resident Visa close.
August. Skilled Migrant Residence category scheduled to reopen.
August. A new pathway to residence for people earning 200% or more of the median wage.
*Excludes high-risk countries.
January 9, 2023
Policy Decision Key Dates in 2022
February 13. Fully vaccinated Kiwis plus certain other travellers entering NZ from the rest of the world* can skip MIQ.
April 30. The border starts a phased reopen to fully vaccinated foreign nationals.
April 30. The Productivity Commission reports back to the government on immigration settings.
May 9. Applications open for mandatory Employer Accreditation.
*Excludes high-risk countries.
January 9, 2023
Work Visa Categories Closing
The work visa categories set to close are:
Essential Skills Work Visa
Essential Skills Work Visa – approval in principle
Work to Residence (Talent – Accredited Employer)
Work to Residence (Long Term Skills Shortage)
Silver Fern Job Search Work Visa (closed October 2019)
Silver Fern Practical Experience Work Visa.
January 9, 2023
The Green List
In order to address labour shortages in New Zealand's crucial industries the NZ government has implemented a "Green List" of sought-after high-skill occupations. This list offers a prioritised pathway to residency.
There are qualification and/or occupational registration requirements to meet. Occupations are broken down into two tiers:
Tier 1 - direct pathway to residence
Tier 2 - requires a period of two years or longer before applying
The recent additions in May 2023 across many sectors can be found here