Fortune Favours the Bold

November 5, 2021
Iain MacLeod

There is no doubt that the last five weeks in New Zealand has been a pretty busy and very interesting time in the immigration space..

Just over a month ago, the Minister announced what is probably the biggest and most generous Visa plan, in living memory – a plan to give virtually everyone in New Zealand on a Work Visa the ability to secure Residence. There were are a few categories of people who didn’t make the cut but with the projected number of 165,000 being eligible, there weren’t many people left out in the cold.

Following that we have seen the Government facing up to the reality that our current border system doesn’t work and whilst we haven’t lifted the lid entirely, there are clear signs and calls for it to be changed. MIQ stays will very soon become shorter, more countries will be added to the list that can dodge MIQ entirely and there is an appetite now for people who arrive here fully vaccinated to eventually be able to camp out at home instead of in a Government run facility.

On the periphery of all of that but directly linked to it, is yesterday’s announcement that our unemployment level has plummeted to 3.4% which is half a percent lower than pre-pandemic levels and a number not seen for many years. Whilst unemployment has been falling, the number of new jobs continues to increase with recent additions hitting 54,000. The obvious question now is who will do the jobs that we are creating and it is a question that is placing an enormous amount of pressure on our current political leaders (I use the word ‘leaders’ loosely).

You might be wondering, particularly if you are offshore and yet to start the process, what all of this means for you. Well, it means, potentially very good things.

In terms of the newly minted 2021 Resident Visa category, which hit the headlines at the end of September and has now been formalized within the rules, there is a somewhat hidden but very real opportunity for some of you outside of New Zealand keen to make a life new here. Whilst the new Resident Visa option was primarily targeted at those onshore who hold existing Work Visas and meet certain skill, scarcity or settlement criteria, there is also an opportunity for certain skilled individuals to get here before July 2022 and take advantage of this new pathway as well.

The Critical Purpose Visa process was set up to allow specific occupations (namely healthcare) to be able to secure Visas and border exemptions despite the current pause for offshore Visa processing. It involves two steps and requires an offer of employment that meets the definition of “critical” as well as the applicant being suitably qualified to undertake the work, which might include, as an example, being registered to work as a nurse.

For anyone who works in particular healthcare roles (and the list is fairly broad) who is able to secure an offer of employment in New Zealand and arrive here on a Critical Purpose Visa before July 2022, they will also have the opportunity to apply for Residence under this new category.

Considering there is no points test under this new category, nor any need for English, very low medical criteria and crucially no age cap, this could provide some of you with an opportunity to make the move that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Let me repeat that in case it didn’t sink in – no points, no English and no limit on age.

You do have to meet certain criteria in regards to the role you secure, so it isn’t for one and all, but if you work in healthcare (and can become registered here, if that is required for your profession) then there is a good chance you might qualify.

If you combine that with the fact that unemployment is now at levels not seen for 14 years and most of our health industry is falling over itself to find more staff, then with the right strategy and approach, this limited time offer might be the best chance you have of getting in to New Zealand. This also means that the 60-year-old, qualified and registered Nurse who would ordinarily not be able to migrate to New Zealand, now potentially can.

There are also other critical workers that can consider this option, although the list of those and the criteria is a lot more limited, so really this advantages those in healthcare over pretty much every one else.

However, if you aren’t a Nurse or Psychologist and perhaps you’re better with numbers or computers or car engines, the events of the last few months should give you a good reason to be encouraged as well.

There is no doubt that New Zealand has approached the latter stages of this pandemic by retreating in to its shell and that has seen borders remaining closed for far longer than necessary, which we suspect has cooled interest in those looking to make the move.

However, there are strong signals that not even this overly cautious Government can ignore and a plummeting unemployment number, rising job vacancy numbers and employers screaming out for skilled labour on a daily basis are amongst the strongest. Low unemployment is a good economic indicator for a strong economy, until it isn’t. When you reach the levels New Zealand has, the negative impacts start to surface – businesses can’t grow, they can’t fulfil future work, projects start to grind to a halt and costs go up (everywhere).

Myself and my colleagues have no doubt that over the next few months the pressures that have come to bear on the Government will be too immense for them to ignore. That should (and we believe will) lead to further revisions of border settings, to allow a greater number of people in to fill those skill gaps.

Only last week, it was pointed out on multiple occasions that there is a painful irony in the fact that someone in NZ who has Covid can isolate at home, yet a New Zealander or skilled worker stuck offshore who has been fully vaccinated and tests negative has to take their chances with the MIQ lottery.

Our friends across the ditch have also lead the way and one might say caused a little bit of embarrassment here. Australia with lower numbers of people fully vaccinated than New Zealand has is opening up to the rest of the world, with international flights arriving in to the country as early as yesterday. They also have a strong desire to restart their migration engines, appreciating that migrants bring various and very significant contributions – all of which will be vital in the post pandemic world.

The cracks in all of New Zealand’s precautionary Covid measures that may have been necessary a year or 18 months ago are now big enough you could fly a 747 full of migrants through them – A 747 that might be bound for Australia who are pulling out ahead of New Zealand and I am confident we will want to catch up.

For those of you who work in healthcare and are qualified and able to sell your skills to an eager employer here, there has never been a better time to try. With the new 2021 Resident Visa offering a simplified pathway to stay here permanently and a desperate need for your skills as our economy keeps pushing back, you would be mad not to explore it. Of course you need to make sure you meet the various requirements to secure the initial Visa to get here and run the gauntlet in terms of the border and MIQ but with any luck that process will become easier as the months pass.

For the rest of you who may not meet the very generous requirements under this new (and it is a one-off) category or who don’t work in healthcare, fear not – every day, week and month we move closer to being able to bring you here. It’s a message we think needs to be reinforced, New Zealand is not closed to migrants and if today’s numbers are anything to go by, our need to open up and let people in who can bring the skills we desperately need is becoming even more apparent.

To find out more and particularly if you think you could be one of those eligible to fall within the new 2021 Visa pathway, get in touch. Fortune favours the bold and there is no better time than now to be a bold migrant.

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