Shake Up The Skilled Migrant Category

October 11, 2016
Iain MacLeod

A few minutes ago the Government announced (or shortly will) a number of changes to the Skilled Migrant Category which take place today.

On the face of it, it looks quite radical but upon closer reflection isn’t quite the ‘revolution’ the Government will paint it (and no doubt the media will swallow) and is little more than a rearrangement of the deck chairs. Unless you are an international student hoping to get a resident visa in which case your future in New Zealand is looking fairly bleak…the Government is about to do to them what the Australians did to their international students a few years ago.

Our Government will today announce ‘cuts’ to migrant numbers but it appears to me to be a case of smoke and mirrors more than anything else in order to:

  • Take the wind out of the anti-immigrant NZ First party’s sails; and
  • Be seen to be taking additional pressure off Auckland house prices (some skilled migrants will now have to find jobs outside of Auckland); and
  • Close the doors on tens of thousands of international students that were promised open work visas upon completion of their studies by this Government as a pathway to residence. For most of them door has just been slammed shut in their faces and their futures lie outside of New Zealand.

The cuts, such as they are, are coming principally from the Family Stream and the overall target of migrants per immigration year is remaining about the same (at 85,000 – 95,000 over the next 24 months). So there is really no overall cut in substance.

The only real cuts apply to the Parent Category which sees numbers reduces from 5200 per annum to 2000. This is going to have the result of pushing out waiting times, but not the overall outcome for parents wishing to join their children in NZ.

From Wednesday 11 October all ‘classes’ of Skilled Migrants will have a fixed pass mark of 160 points. That is up from 100 for those with job offers and effectively means everyone will need a job offer to qualify.

As I have been pushing for some time now English testing is becoming mandatory. There will be exemptions but only for those from the USA, UK and Canada or for those with recognised qualifications from (and presumably studied in) those countries.

While this appears to be a radical increase in what is required to gain entry it really only impacts on those that have cannot squeeze out additional points by working for a period of time in NZ, work in an occupation which affords them previously unrequired bonus points, have family in NZ or a partner who can also get skilled work.

Our initial analysis, albeit without an enormous amount of information to go on apart from what we have learned from INZ; suggests most of our clients will be able to make an plan.

Those with recognised degrees (or higher) and even many with lower level qualifications such as tradesmen and Technicians will almost certainly still qualify if they get employment outside of Auckland and if they are in a relationship, get the partners out to work as well.

Unless…there is a twist in this tail.

We are reliably advised the Government recognises the potential negative impact on very high value migrants but who might not have degrees who have jobs in Auckland and a labour market screaming out for their skills – think IT specialists who are industry experienced but with no degree, CEOs without MBAs, senior management who came up through the ranks and the like who will be based in Auckland and have very high salaries and much to offer…INZ has been told to carry out some additional work which we expect to become policy in the next few weeks.

I understand that might involve additional bonus points being awarded for salaries over a certain annual level to compensate for the new pass mark. Or something which provides a similar and certain outcome.

The number I have in my mind is $70,000. No word on how those changes might translate into points but mark my words: such a change is designed to keep the Auckland job market open to those with high enough salaries (thanks to their being highly skilled) to warrant acknowledgment of the value they bring to the economy and the need for them in Auckland. Given it is the engine room of the economy what the Government is clearly trying to do here is to make sure that the finite numbers of skilled migrant places are taken up by the highly skilled and highly valued migrants and not recent international graduates with lower level qualifications. A bummer if your parents mortgaged their future in a village in Gujarat to send you to NZ for a better life but that’s Governments for you. I have spoken publically about the ‘tsunami’ of Expressions of Interest that will result (already is) in thousands of lower skill level applicants swamping the ‘pool’ for some time and telling anyone that would listen that change will be forced upon the Government if they do not act.

Well, they have.

Perhaps, when the Minister of Immigration was publically quoted, in regards to the tens of thousands of international students looking for a resident visa, ‘they won’t get residence’ recently, he wasn’t joking. He knew the Government was about to pull the rug out from under their feet.

I hate to say it but I told you so. It was so obviously going to have to happen or the Skilled Migrant Category would collapse under the weight of these applicants.

My advice to those from the English speaking world all this change really suggests to me is:

  • You’ll need to get a job offer outside of Auckland unless you can pick up bonus points; and
  • Qualifications are back in vogue and will be more important than they have been in recent years;
  • Government will find a way within the next few weeks to provide a pathway to 160 points for those on higher salaries than ‘average’ with jobs in Auckland

For existing clients, we will be back in touch with you within the next few hours to explain how these changes affect you.

Leave a Reply

There are currently no comments. Why don't you kick things off?