Amendments To The Skilled Migrant Instructions

August 18, 2017
Iain MacLeod

Government released the amendments to the skilled migrant instructions yesterday that I and a few other experts have been helping to draft in recent weeks.

No surprises having seen a third draft ten days ago.

Major changes to Skilled Migrant points include:

  • Increase in points for those aged 30-39 from 25 to 30 points
  • Increase in points for Master degrees and higher from 60 to 70 points
  • Increase in points for work experience from a maximum 30 to 50 points

Reduction or elimination of points for:

  • Close family in NZ – was 10, now 0
  • Qualifications in an area of absolute skills shortage – was 10 now 0
  • NZ work experience – from maximum of 15 down to 10
  • Partner’s qualifications – Diploma or less to 0 (from 10) points , Bachelor or higher down to 10 (from 20 points)

Addition of:

  • Points for high salary of around $97,000 – 20

One interesting change is that any job in NZ that comes with a guaranteed minimum salary (note, not remuneration package) of $73,299 is deemed to be skilled for points (50 of them if the job is offered in Auckland or 80 if outside) and all relevant, for want of a better word, work experience now attracts points.

The example we like to offer is the migrant with a job in NZ as a pencil salesman and 20 years work experience in the same occupation will now get points for the job offer and all his work experience (even though neither has historically counted) so long as there is a guaranteed salary of a touch under $75,000. This is a radical departure and demonstrates that skill can now be based on what the position pays.

In theory a tea lady who is guaranteed this salary can get into NZ permanently.

At the same time the Government has released new Essential Skills Work Visa rules and again no surprises.

The key points here are:

  • Salary prescribes how long the work visa can be granted for (up to 12 months, 3 years or 5 years)
  • At the lowest end of the scale low skilled workers can apply to ‘renew’ their work visas for another two blocks of 12 months but must leave NZ at the end of the stay for a full 12 months. They will also not be able to bring their partners or children with them. This is a clear signal Government does not expect these lower skill folk to expect to put down roots or ask to stay long term (it isn’t going to happen)

In a further change that is already causing havoc is Government now expects all employers to demonstrate they have historically, and will in future, comply with all NZ immigration and employment law.

I am not sure how anyone can prove they will not break a law in future…and I do not know how they can prove that they have not in the past without getting a letter from the Ministry of Justice confirming no convictions against that company or business for breaches of such laws.

Instead of perhaps telling employers to do precisely this, in typical INZ fashion they are taking this rule to extremes and case officers are demanding for example tax records for every employee in a company and along with that, wage and hours worked records for every employee.

Only this week this evidence has been demanded from a company a client of ours has been offered a senior management role with, paying six figures…the company employs 41 staff including three migrants. You might think, given the rules are designed to prevent migrants being exploited, INZ would only want to see the records of the three on work visas. But no, they want the lot…

We have questioned senior INZ managers how reviewing tax records and hours worked of a person proves that the employer has not broken any laws? If they had copies of their employment contracts then maybe, but they are not asking for all 41 of those.

These new rules for both Skilled Migrant Category are going to be a nightmare. The great thing about being invited to assist in drafting them is understanding the objective of the changes making us best placed to push back when, inevitably and sadly, immigration officers get it all wrong. The madness seems never to end.

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