NZ Visas – The Next 12 (or 24) Months

March 26, 2021
Iain MacLeod

Senior INZ officials held a zoom meeting earlier today with interested immigration advisors. They seem to have caught the current government bug of making announcements about making announcements but there was some useful insight into what is, and isn’t, happening over the next few months. As usual the “why” is largely missing.

Here are the key takeaways:

Resumption of selections of skilled migrant Expressions of Interest.

Don’t hold your breath basically. Government previously announced that resumption of selections would be “reviewed” at the end of this month. Of course a ‘review’ does not mean anything in terms of when they might actually resume selections and so it has turned out to be. The advice from inside the department is they have no idea when the government will hit the ‘go’ button. This aligns with our own analysis here at IMMagine that I have written about previously. Given the number of resident visa applications still sitting awaiting allocation in the department’s backlog at best we might see a resumption of EOI selections in July but it’s probably more likely to be September. I have no doubt the bureaucrats are pleading with the Minister for more time to clean up the resident visa backlog mess before adding more applications to the system. The danger of that of course is that the number of expressions of interest in that skilled migrant pool has increased steadily from roughly 5000 when they ceased selecting last year to around 7000 today. The closer we get to a possible resumption the more likely people are to start filing expressions of interest (although as I have said previously if you are able to file an expression of interest on 160 points you would be crazy not to have done so already).

Re-uniting split families

The pressure on the government has risen to unprecedented levels in recent weeks over this thanks to a few of us in the private sector beating the ‘fairness’ drum and acknowledgement should also go to the opposition spokeswoman on Immigration, Erica Stanford who has done an outstanding job holding the Government to account over its cruelty in Parliament. We are now told to expect ‘announcement’ by the end of April. Work has recently begun on solving a problem the Government has known about since June last year.

My pick is Government will confirm a two way, MIQ free travel bubble with Australia to start on 1 May or thereabouts. This will immediately free up around 2000 MIQ rooms each week. That allows them to ease up on those trapped on the wrong side of the border. However, and not unreasonably, they don’t want to fill all of those MIQ rooms up with people travelling from Covid hotspots like India. Expect then some form of ‘triaging’ whereby priority will be given to certain groups over others.

We are thinking it could be along the lines of:

• Those who had visas when the border shut where a partner/parent is in NZ

• Those who didn’t have visas when the border closed but who have a partner/parent in NZ

• Skill level of the partner who is in NZ

• The salary of the partner who is in NZ

We believe the talk of potential prioritisation based on salary or occupation could be a ’nice’ way of ensuring that the Government doesn’t have to say if you are coming from India or any other hotspot places will be strictly limited’. I should make clear no announcements have been made on the order profile but you can bet your bottom dollar they will so we don’t get the health risk of filling up MIQ rooms with more and more people travelling here with Covid.

New work visa policy

We are told that ‘announcements’ are going to be rolled out over the next 2 to 3 months on when the various changes are going to be put in place. To those of you not familiar with the proposed changes (again we have written about them before) we are heading to a more ‘Australian style’ model which places more emphasis on the employer proving they are ‘worthy’ of employing foreigners along with the current labour market testing and applicants proving they are qualified and experienced to take up the job. It’s going to see an extra layer added to the onion but not one that will change the likelihood of work visas over those that get them today. One suspects these changes are designed to focus on the ‘lower’ end of the skill spectrum. I would imagine that we are going to see hospitality and retail specifically targeted. Expect to see the changes rolled out over the remainder of this year and early next.

All employers must become ‘accredited’. A question was asked if those businesses that have the current iteration of this special status will have it rolled over. Officials had no answer to that. It makes administrative sense they should (which probably means they won’t).

New IT system

Nearly a decade after announcing that within two years you’d be able to file any sort of visa online from anywhere in the world, INZ has confirmed they abandoned the idea of tacking on a new software platform on their old one and have come up with a whole new system (they kept that very quiet). This will see all visas being able to be filed online within ’12-18 months’ (so we are thinking probably by 2025…)

The timeline INZ has provided is as follows:

• Visitor Visas from July 2021

• Student and partnership temporary visas from October 2021

• All Resident class visas within ’12-18 months’ (so late 2022 – I’ll believe it when I see it)

No word on when Work Visas will be able to be filed online but we expect by year’s end. Presumably to coincide with the roll out of the ‘new’ work visa policies.

As always in these briefings there was a lot of talk of what might happen, when it might happen and how it might happen. Nothing concrete on anything which is par for the course. But at least we can take comfort, particularly for those whose families have been ripped apart by the border closures, that the end is in sight.

Credit to Immigration New Zealand for holding this presentation this morning given social media, chat groups in migrant forums along with industry crystal ball gazers have in recent months been working overtime trying to second-guess what will happen. Speculation fueled by a government that is perceived to be anti-migrant and which insists on making statements along the lines of ‘New Zealand employers will need to get used to employing New Zealanders’.

I’ll say it one more time – this is nothing more than politicking. New Zealand is going to need a lot of skilled migrants for a long time to come to fill temporary and long-term shortages in the labour market so no one should be too concerned about what is going to be rolled out over the next 12 to 18 months.

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