Changes to New Zealand immigration law

  • News
  • May 2, 2017
  • The Register team
Changes to New Zealand immigration law

Changes to our immigration laws are set to be put in place August this year, but how will they affect your staff and business?

New Zealand Immigration has released changes to the immigration law governing its Skilled Migrant Category, which are expected to be put into action August 14.

The new law is a points-based residence policy, for people who wish to live permanently in New Zealand. Points are based on factors such as the applicant's qualifications, work experience, and the job offer.

All applicants must also meet some minimum criteria, regarding health, character and command of the English language.

The Skilled Migrant Category is not a new concept, but the changes being made this year are. And it is these changes which will change the residential laws in Auckland.

The first change alters the point system, increasing the points threshold for automatic selection from 140 to 160.

The changes mean that anyone who makes under $49,000 a year won’t be able to work in central cities unless they’re a resident.

A tightening of immigration rules will likely be the last before the election and help regions get the workers needed while sending fewer new arrivals to Auckland, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse says.

“As part of changes to start from August 14, migrants will need to earn more than $48,859 a year once in New Zealand to qualify for a skilled migrant category visa.”

Other changes include limiting lower-skilled visa holders to a maximum of three years and classifying the partners and children of these visa holders as visitors, meaning they will only gain work visas if they meet requirements in their own right.

Due to the new rules, business owners can be expected to be approached for higher salaries as workers aim to stay in the country.

The employment of New Zealand residents is the goal for larger and smaller businesses who may suffer employee loss resulting in the new law.

However, there are issues which arise under the new law according to New Zealand Immigration.

“The rise in SMC (skilled migrant category) migrants who work in lower-income occupations indicates that some jobs that meet the current definition of “skilled work” may not, in fact, be highly skilled,” says the New Zealand Immigration website.

In particular, it is not easy to differentiate between senior and junior roles (particularly in managerial positions).

For those who wanted to apply for residency but now don’t meet requirements, Immigration New Zealand advised them not to apply.

“If you cannot meet the new points threshold, we would not recommend that you submit an EOI as it is unlikely to be selected.”

But those already working in New Zealand can apply for a temporary work visa based on their job.

To keep their current employees, employers may need to show that they cannot find suitable New Zealand workers to take up their job requirements.

Changes to start from August 14:

• Anyone who will earn less than about $49,000 a year once in New Zealand won't get a skilled migrant category visa, and permanent residents won't get points for such jobs.

• People who will earn more than $73,299 will automatically be classified as highly skilled.

• The SMC points table, under which individuals claim points towards their residence application, will also be realigned to give more recognition of skill levels in the 30-39 age group and high salary levels.

• Limiting lower skilled visa holders to a maximum of three years, after which a stand-down period will apply before another visa can be approved.

• Classifying the partners and children of these visa holders as visitors, meaning they will only gain work visas if they meet requirements in their own right.

• Ensuring the length of the visa in seasonal occupations aligns with peak labour demand, rather than for 12 months as is presently the case.

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