What Are the Impacts of the Skilled Migrant Category Changes?
Skilled Migrant Category changes will impact migrant workers and the New Zealand economy. Find out the impacts of the Government’s proposal for NZ and migrants.
February 3, 2023
It will be another year of change for NZ Immigration and our skilled migrant workforce.
The Skilled Migrant Worker Visa that has been traditionally the leading residency visa for migrant workers wanting to move to New Zealand shores is currently being reassessed by the Government.
The Government's final decision on this visa’s proposed criteria changes will be released in early 2023, after a consultation period with the public and industry leaders.
How these changes will impact New Zealand’s immigration and job sector will start to be known in the later part of 2023. However, how well they will support the Government's long-term plans to support more economic growth and our industries will take some time to bear fruit.
In this article, we’ll discuss the impact the changes to the point system will have on New Zealand employers and our migrant workforce.
What Is the Skilled Migrant Category?
The Skilled Migrant Category is a residence pathway for migrants holding skilled job offers from New Zealand employers. Under this category, it awards migrants with points based on their education, work experience, job offers, and personal attributes.
The Government is rebalancing New Zealand's immigration system by implementing a shift in the future migrant workforce to increase New Zealand business productivity, a higher wage threshold and rebalance the skills gap to support our economy's growth. The long-term view is to move New Zealand into a more valuable economy that can hold its own on the global stage.
Skilled Migrant Category Reopened
INZ announced the reopening of the Skilled Migrant Category in October 2022. The Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) visa was reopened and resumed (under the same settings previous to April 2020) on 9 November 2022. However, new and continuous changes are expected, as the Government's proposal has been submitted for consultation before it is implemented.
Starting with the first change with an increase in the points threshold from 160 to 180 in December last year until the time at which the final changes are rolled out by the Government later this year.
What Are the Skilled Migrant Category Proposed Changes?
The Skilled Migrant Category has previously processed the largest volume of residence visas in NZ. At its peak in 2018-19 it saw 242,364 visas approved. However, it closed to new applications in April 2020, when the NZ border closed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The proposed changes are:
The introduction of a simplified point system. The criteria is based on one of three categories; professional registration, qualifications, or high income, as well as 3 points for up to three years of skilled work in New Zealand.
No caps to the level of applications processed, meaning a higher proportion of migrants potentially will gain residence every year.
Special requirements for people in specified occupations to support immigration and labour market risks
Simplify the Points System
INZ has proposed a simplified points system that sets a clear, fair, and transparent eligibility threshold for skilled residence.
What Does the Proposed Simplified Point System Look Like?
The simplification will increase the certainty for migrants of whether they can or can not apply. In addition, the criteria is more straightforward, removing the non-skilled "bonus points" for where migrants are located and if they study in NZ or have a partner that does. This is because the previous "bonus" points did not bring enough value to the criteria, and the Government proposes to promote regional employment in other ways.
The point system proposal is as follows:
Applicants will need to have at least 6 points to be eligible, which can be made up from:
3 to 6 points based on professional registration, qualifications, or income. People can choose the skill category that offers the most points based on their circumstances; and
1 point per year of work in New Zealand in a skilled job, up to a maximum of 3 points.
The simplified system is proposed to take income as just one way of providing points and illustrating their skill rather than a qualifier.
The changes to the Skilled Migrant Visa are such that migrants will need to have worked in New Zealand for a period of time to qualify. The length of time a migrant works in New Zealand helps to increase their chances of success.
What Does the Points Threshold Increase Mean for Migrants
Within the proposal, the new higher points criteria is suggested to drop the number of applicants, reducing the visa processing waiting time for those successful applicants.
If you have a degree or professional registration you can benefit from this change. If you rely on your income alone you need to meet the income threshold of at least 1.5x the median wage to be accepted under this criteria. Without the additional support of the previous ‘bonus points scheme’ the criteria for the visa is very clear.
Those who hoped to gain extra points by having highly paid partners or employed in locations outside Auckland will need to rethink their options or return to study to increase their chances of qualifying.
The Impact of A Simplified Points System on Migrants
While the proposed changes aim to provide migrants with certainty about their eligibility for skilled residence, it may be challenging for some migrant applicants. It may be more difficult for migrants to meet the points threshold in specific occupations, especially where the training is primarily on-the-job, and there is no associated registration scheme.
Most applicants for the Skilled Migrant Category are individuals that are already onshore on temporary work visas (94% in 2019). Changing to this simplified points system may leave some of these migrants with little option but to seek other shores or rethink their long-term settlement strategy.
If they are relying on the income criteria for example and the income threshold rises above affordability for their employers this could leave them in vulnerable position.
Malcolm Pacific Immigration are licensed Immigration Advisers, who are here to help guide you through the process of visa application.
We are here to help guide you on the best visa for your situation and help support you each step of the way.
Get in touch with us today.
The Impact of the Points System on Employers
The point system changes are proposed to maintain tension in the labour market to encourage employers to lift wages and conditions or shift to technological solutions or more productive business models rather than relying on access to large numbers of low skilled migrant workers. These changes also align closely with the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) introduced in July 2022.
Through the new points system proposal, some employers may need to substantially increase their hourly rates to meet a higher income threshold in order to employ migrant workers. Would this wage increase flow on to New Zealand citizens is another question.
The employers offering work within the ANZSCO 4-5 roles which require lower training levels, will need to pay 1.5x the median wage. The median wage calculation is taken across a wide range of industries which means if the changes are confirmed some may need to pay migrants higher than the industry average for their sector.
The Government believes that this income threshold increase will ensure that the migrants have more financial security. However the impact of this rise in cost could reduce the bottom line for New Zealand business. This could have a flow on effect, increasing the prices New Zealanders pay in order to fulfill the services employing migrant workers.
What will the Changes to the Point System Mean for Immigration?
The benefits of simplifying the points system should reduce visa approval time, by reducing the volume of applications that qualify.
The volume of visas approved suffered under the previous rules due to the volume of applications. Even though the amount of visas approved is uncapped, only 40% of eligible applications in 2019 were processed.
The Government says the new system should make eligibility clearer in the long term, allow New Zealand to retain the talent brought in via the new Accredited Employer Work Visa, and complement the New Zealand Green List.
New Zealand Immigration will still continue to prioritise critical occupations with the use of the Green List which sits alongside of the Skilled Migrant Visa, to offer pathways to residence for roles New Zealand needs to sustain its growth.
As licenced immigration advisers, Malcolm Pacific Immigration we have 35 years of experience helping thousands of migrants and their families discover a great new life in New Zealand. We are here to simplify the process and help guide you to find the best visa for your situation.
Get in touch with us today.
The Benefit of the Simplified Points System for NZ
The Government proposal would aim to help population growth remain within New Zealand's capacity to absorb people. To support their long-term goal of a higher-productivity, higher-wage economy, the Government’s proposed changes mean there will be an alleviating of the pressure on infrastructure, especially housing.
The Government expects the country to also benefit economically with fewer Skilled Migrants but a better quality of experience and higher pay rates.
Additional Proposed Changes
The Government proposes to make the Job Search visa redundant. This type of visa application is often the most challenging and time-consuming for INZ to assess. Technology and the popularity of online meetings has improved people's ability to job hunt from offshore. Visitor visas can also supplement this process allowing migrants to look for work before transitioning to a work or residence visa.
Removing this type of visa can benefit New Zealand employers and our immigration process, as INZ can control the prioritisation and process of the most valuable visas for the country's growth.
What Next for the Skilled Migrant Proposal?
In this article, we have discussed the impact the proposed changes could have on the Skilled Migration Visa when it is eventually rolled out in late 2023.
The public consultation period could see revisions to this policy based on advice from industry leaders and public feedback.
The final decision will be released in early 2023, meaning we will not have to wait for long to understand the finalised policy.
Our highly experienced licensed Immigration team will take away the stress and worry of navigating the complicated world of New Zealand Immigration. All you need to do is get in touch. Our team is on standby, ready to help.
Our highly experienced licensed Immigration team will take away the stress and worry of navigating the complicated world of New Zealand Immigration. All you need to do is get in touch. Our employer team is on standby, ready to help.
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