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Immigrating to Australia Vs New Zealand

November 27, 2023
Iain MacLeod

I have always thought that the role of a good immigration adviser is to save people from themselves. I admit to being a little evangelical about it at times. Sadly, I don’t always succeed in saving souls.

I explain to prospective clients – “you cannot meet 98% of residence visa criteria and expect to be granted a visa”. This is a ‘test’ where the pass mark is 100%. In the information age, with most things being searchable and ‘free,’ there is a temptation to think you know more than you actually do.

This week, I had a consultation with a couple who, when they walked into the consultation, were clearly pretty confident they understood the residence rules of both NZ and Australia.

They had identified pathways to New Zealand, but they all seemed to be multi-year strategies, so they turned their attention to Australia. Naturally, they told me they had done a ‘lot of research’ (oh, for a dollar every time I hear that).

They did know more than most (this was their second consultation with us in the past three years), yet I realized about 15 minutes in that they had subtle but significant knowledge gaps on all the strategies they’d identified. Each of those ‘gaps’ meant they’d likely fail if they proceeded.

They were rolling the dice, but they didn’t realize it.

How Qualifications Influence Residence Visa Criteria

One of them had come to New Zealand as an international student and qualified as an Early Childhood Teacher. Now registered in New Zealand. Post Study Work Visa in hand and expiring in February 2024. Job interviews are going well. So far, so good.

All immigrants, having invested so much in that teaching qualification and registration, are in a hurry to secure residence. That is understandable – migrants are entitled to demand a bit of certainty from governments given that migration is a two-way street.

The primary applicant not only holds an NZ teaching qualification but a ‘recognised’ (for points) Master of Commerce in Finance.

And that Master’s qualification potentially changes everything. Or nothing.

How might it fit into a strategy? Might it help or hinder getting residence in the shortest possible time?

The 2%.

Resident Visa options

I shared a few strategies:

Criteria New ZealandAustralia
Option 1     Secure a job as an Early Childhood Teacher then….         General Skilled Migration subclass 189 as an Early Childhood Teacher
Apply for residence after two years of work under the ‘Green List’ 
Option 2                                   Six point system requiring six points:General Skilled Migration permanent residence visa subclass 190
a) Teacher qualification and up to three years of work experienceGSM State Government nominated Early Childhood Teacher subclass 491, provisional residence
b) Master’s degree and one year of NZ work 
c) Teacher Registration and one year of NZ work 

What they could not work out for themselves was which of these would give them the quickest pathway to residence certainty—note, not the least risky.

Enter the fine print.

I asked if they had a preference for New Zealand or Australia. Their preference is NZ, but as they explained, if NZ continues to make the process so opaque, so uncertain, and so long, they’d go to Australia. They’ve invested a lot of money to get to this point through expensive international education, and you cannot blame them for wanting certainty now.

In demonstrating how important that critical final the ‘2%’ we bring to the party and to identify the quickest pathway to securing residence somewhere, the issue of NZ registration takes center stage.

In what can politely be termed ‘odd,’ under the Green List option, a Teacher only requires ‘registration’ but, inexplicably, has to work for two years before they can enjoy the ‘privilege’ of applying for residence. To secure ‘points’ for their local NZ teacher registration, they must have ‘full‘ registration, which is a different measure.

Under the ‘simplified’ points system (that no one with half a critical thinking brain finds simple), could she teach in NZ and claim points for a finance Master’s degree?

In further sweat-on-brow inducing advice from the Master, I pointed out the danger of accepting a job as an Early Childhood Teacher under either the Green List or the ‘points’ system. The reason is that they must still be earning the national median hourly rate, whatever it might be, at the time they become eligible to apply for residence. And unless the new government freezes that policy, then what the client must earn at the time she applies for residence needs to be higher than it is today.

My advice is that no one should be taking any job where the salary is only slightly above the median wage ($29.66) unless they are very confident that when they become eligible for residence, they will be given an inflation indexed pay rise. They are better off going to (or using) Australia.

Despite media reports today that the median salary will be dropped on ‘SMC’ applications, I am very reliably informed this is not government policy.

Should You Immigrate to Australia or New Zealand?

If you are wondering what my advice ultimately was, it was to pursue the Australian permanent residence visa (subclass 189, if possible, 190 if not; they are both unconditional visas). They’d stay in NZ while we prepared and processed it on the balance of a five year work visa (thus buying time and eliminating the requirement for annual pay rises).

And here is the cherry on the top – once their Australian permanent residence visa comes through in about 12 months’ time, they can fly to Australia and activate their visa, and then if they wish to jump on the next plane back to NZ, they can and on arrival, take up their legal entitlement of residence of New Zealand. Thus avoiding the minefield of the New Zealand ‘points’ system and the lethal fine print of the Green List.

Two countries to choose from out of one ‘simplified’ strategy.

I am not certain I can save these people from themselves, though; they weren’t that keen on investing in our help to manage the next critical two years of the visa process. And sadly, I have a horrible feeling they are about to get it 98% right.



Iain MacLeod

Iain has been working as an Immigration Adviser since 1988 and has been running his own practice since 1990. In 1998 he merged his practice with Myer Lipschitz leading to the creation of Protea Pacific Limited which was rebranded in 2008 to IMMagine New Zealand Limited...

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