Visa News

Skilled Migrant Category – Ready, Set………Go?

Signals keep growing stronger that an announcement can be expected in the near future to reopen the Skilled Migrant category. Here is what we know so far: The Minister of Immigration has made a decision to restart selections of Expressions of Interest (EOI).

27/08/20213 min read
Skilled Migrant Category – Ready, Set………Go?

Signals keep growing stronger that an announcement can be expected in the near future to reopen the Skilled Migrant category. Here is what we know so far:

  • The Minister of Immigration has made a decision to restart selections of Expressions of Interest (EOI).
  • The Minister has made a decision on the selection criteria. This may suggest a change to the current pass mark of 160 and how points are allocated.
  • Immigration NZ posted an advance copy of their amended SMC point calculator with 20 points allocated to people with jobs that require occupational registration (nurses, teachers, plumbers etc) AND extra points (up from10 to 30) for those holding jobs in areas of absolute skill shortage (ICT, engineering, health professionals etc).
  • This advance copy has since been taken down.

While the Minister appears to have made decisions around June it does take time for Immigration NZ (INZ) to get prepared for any changes to go live. There are application forms (paper and online) to amend, immigration instructions (the rules) to rewrite and staff training modules.

When INZ has everything ready to launch the Minister then decides when to make a public announcement. Everyone is collectively holding their breath for the Minister to get on with his announcement but that alone will not result in immediate relief for the thousands wanting to become residents. The queues are huge.

There are around 14,000 Skilled Migrant Residence applications (includes the Skilled Migrant (points) and Residence from Work categories) lodged waiting in a queue to be processed with a small number being assessed by Immigration Officers each month. INZ is working on applications lodged in November 2019 (21 months ago).

On top of the applications already lodged, there are over 10,000 EOIs sitting in the Skilled Migrant pool. No doubt an increase in the pass mark coupled with increased points for jobs requiring occupational registration and/or areas of absolute skill shortage will result in a smaller than expected number being selected. Not all 10,000 EOIs will get selected.

INZ has only 70 Immigration Officers to process this massive number of applications and EOIs. Commentators are quick to blame INZ for processing delays but deciding a residence application is complex and time-consuming. There are documents to verify (qualifications, work reference, job offers etc), relationships to assess (children of separated parents, testing partnerships are genuine and so on), character checks, medical issues to address... the list goes on.

Unless Immigration Officers are instructed to take shortcuts (frankly that is not in the national interest) the only solution is more frontline Immigration Officers. INZ will need substantially more staff to clear backlogs and deal with the wave of new applications when selections of EOIs resumes and invitations to apply for residence are sent out.

INZ is stuck with an out of date funding model. 70 Immigration Officers was the number of staff to deliver the skilled migrant portion of the government residence programme. But that programme expired 31/12/2019 (almost two years ago!) and has not been replaced. If the government genuinely wants to reduce queues they would fund INZ to at least quadruple the current number of Immigration Officers. A team of 280 Immigration Officers would make serious inroads to cut queues and avoid the backlog getting any worse. If work ran out (unlikely for some time) staff can easily be deployed into other areas. Recruiting, training, and accommodating a big workforce takes time to plan and implement. Flicking the "go button" will not immediately help those desperate to get through the process and on with life.

The Minister needs to properly fund INZ by allowing them to get on and do their job with sufficient human resources. Ongoing delays, long queues and uncertainly are hurting families, employers, growing our skill shortages and contributing to the brain drain of international talent who have given up waiting.

We do not anticipate any announcement by the Minister during the current lockdown and politics could throw any number of curveballs into the mix. Immigration Officers cannot process paper-based residence applications during the lockdown. Skilled Migrant applications are processed in Auckland where the current lockdown is expected to last longer than most regions around the country.

If becoming a resident is your goal get in touch today with our team for a free assessment of your eligibility. The process is going to get more complex and using a trusted licensed immigration adviser will reduce the risk of failure and stress levels.

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The Green List

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.

Read more here.

16 May 22

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.
10 Feb 22

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.

16 Dec 21