New Zealand Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse announced on 19 April 2017 that New Zealand will make a host of changes to their immigration policy to better manage immigration and improve the long-term labour market contribution of temporary and permanent migration.
The official statement
The official statement from Minister Woodhouse is as follows:
“The Government is committed to ensuring inward migration best supports the economy and the labour market. It’s important that our immigration settings are attracting the right people, with the right skills, to help fill genuine skill shortages and contribute to our growing economy.
That is why we are making a number of changes to our permanent and temporary immigration settings aimed at managing the number and improving the quality of migrants coming to New Zealand.”
Changes to permanent immigration settings include introducing two remuneration thresholds for applicants applying for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC), which will complement the current qualifications and occupation framework.
“One remuneration threshold will be set at the New Zealand median income of $48,859 a year for jobs that are currently considered skilled. The other threshold will be set at 1.5 times the New Zealand median income of $73,299 a year for jobs that are not currently considered skilled but are well paid,” Mr Woodhouse says.
The SMC points table, under which individuals claim points towards their residence application, will also be realigned to put more emphasis on characteristics associated with better outcomes for migrants.
Collectively these changes will improve the skill composition of the SMC and ensure we are attracting migrants who bring the most economic benefits to New Zealand.”
The New Zealand government is also proposing a number of changes to temporary migration to manage the number and settlement expectations of new migrants coming to New Zealand on Essential Skills work visas.
These changes include:
- The introduction of remuneration bands to determine the skill level of an Essential Skills visa holder, which would align with the remuneration thresholds being introduced for Skilled Migrant Category applicants
- The introduction of a maximum duration of three years for lower-skilled and lower-paid Essential Skills visa holders, after which a minimum stand down period will apply before they are eligible for another lower-skilled temporary work visa.
- Aligning the ability of Essential Skills visa holders to bring their children and partners to New Zealand with the new skill levels.
- Exploring which occupations have a seasonal nature and ensuring that the length of the visa aligns with peak labour demand.
Closing words from Minister Woodhouse
Minister Woodhouse ended off his announcement with the following:
“I want to make it clear that where there are genuine labour or skills shortages, employers will be able to continue to use migrant labour to fill those jobs.
However, the Government has a Kiwis first approach to immigration and these changes are designed to strike the right balance between reinforcing the temporary nature of Essential Skills work visas and encouraging employers to take on more Kiwis and invest in the training to upskill them.
We have always said that we constantly review our immigration policies to ensure they are fit for purpose and today’s announcement is another example of this Government’s responsible, pragmatic approach to managing immigration.”
What happens now?
Public consultation on the changes to temporary migration settings closes on 21 May 2017, with implementation planned for later this year.