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 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.
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*.
(Image Source: Stats NZ)
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:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Understanding the NZ immigration system and keeping up to date with the Government's changes doesn't have to be stressful. Reach out to our experienced immigration advisers for advice and guidance. We can answer any questions and keep you in the loop with significant changes made to the immigration system in New Zealand.
* Business NZ Business NZ Network Survery of Business Opinion
** Nursing Council: Nursing reports
*** Immigration NZ: Construction Jobs
**** RNZ: Three Water’s Threatened By NZ’s Critical Shortage of Skilled Engineers
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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.
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.
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.
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.
From 19 July 2021
From 30 June 2021
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.
From mid-2020 (delayed)
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.
From 15 February 2021
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.
From 7 October 2020
The government added four new occupations that are now regarded as skilled employment and may qualify for job offer points under the Skilled Migrant Category. These are:
Aged or disabled carer, Bicycle mechanic, Driller and Nursing Support worker.
From 27 July 2020
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.
From 27 May 2020
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:
From 24 February 2020
From 7 October 2019
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
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.
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.
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:
Is this the only requirement to qualify for residence? No. In addition to the eligible work visa criteria workers also need to be regarded as one of the following:
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:
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.
*Excludes high-risk countries.
*Excludes high-risk countries.
The work visa categories set to close are:
From September 2022 people holding job offers in a small number of occupations may apply for residence. Some occupations are a direct pathway to residence and others require a period of two years or longer before applying.
There are qualification and/or occupational registration requirements to meet. Establishing if an overseas qualification matches the NZ equivalent qualification before applying is paramount for success.