Since the Government announced immigration changes on 19 April I have had many clients calling me with concerns about how they are affected.
These changes are a major overhaul to immigration policy and are designed to make New Zealand a more attractive migration destination for skilled and experienced workers and, at the same time, less attractive to people in low-skilled jobs.
Everyone’s situation is unique and the changes will result in different immigration outcomes for different groups of people. To illustrate these changes, I have chosen four groups of people and explained how the changes will affect their prospects of successfully achieving residency.
Firstly, it is important to remember that these changes are not yet final. The Government is still consulting with employer groups on the proposed changes to the Essential Skills Work Visa category and the changes will not be finalised for this class of visa until after consultation finishes in late May. The changes will come into effect on 14 August 2017.
However, it is almost certain that the changes will be substantially as announced and, in the Skilled Migrant Residency category, there is no consultation process so this policy is unlikely to change.
The major change to the Skilled Migrant Residency category is a revision to the points awarded to applicants for their Expression of Interest. A few days ago the Government released the Cabinet Papers relating to these changes which included a revised Skilled Migrant points table. I will be using this table from the Cabinet Papers when I discuss Skilled Migrant points in this article. It is possible that there could be changes to this table, but I think this would be highly unlikely.
Finally, before discussing outcomes for various groups of people, I need to describe ANZSCO. ANZSCO is a list of occupations prepared by the Australian and New Zealand Statistics Departments which classifies jobs into skill levels. The highest skilled jobs (I.e. CEO, surgeon etc.) are classified as ‘1’ and the lowest skilled jobs (i.e. builder’s labourer) are classified as ‘5’. In the middle of the range, an ANZSCO skill level of 3 equals a qualified tradesman such as a carpenter, electrician or plumber.
The changes make a distinction between occupations that are ANZSCO skill levels 1,2 or 3 as one group and 4 or 5 as another. The Government has said that people on ANZSCO skill level occupations of 1,2 or 3 who earn $48,859 per annum or more will be classified as skilled. People in ANZSCO skill level 4 or 5 jobs can also be classified as skilled if they earn $73,299 per annum or more. Anyone earning less than these pay levels will be regarded as being low-skilled. These pay levels are based on the median New Zealand income and will be reviewed annually.
Group 1 – Restaurant, Bar Workers, Trade Labourers
These people are in ANZSCO skill level 5 positions and are most unlikely to be earning over $73,299 per annum. For their next work visa application after 14 August 2017 they may receive a visa for up to 3 years. They will not be entitled to renew this visa and will have to leave New Zealand when it expires. Unlike now, they will not be able to pass on the right to a work visa to their partner, nor will their school-age children be able to attend a New Zealand state school without paying international school fees.
* There are no exceptions for Queenstown in the new policy.
Group 2 – Carpenters, Electricians, Painters, Plumbers and other Trades
These people will either have a trade qualification equivalent to level 4 on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework or be able to prove to the satisfaction of Immigration New Zealand that they have at least 3 years of relevant work experience. Trades such as Electricians and Plumbers will also have registration with the relevant New Zealand licencing authority. These occupations are ANZSCO Skill Level 3.
Provided that they earn $48,859 or more per annum they are entitled to apply for an Essential Skills Work Visa and will also be entitled to pass on the rights to a work visa to their partner and domestic student status to their school-age children.
This group has a good pathway to residence and will benefit from increased points offered for employment experience. For example, a tradesman with 10-years’ experience will be able to claim 50 points where previously they could claim 30 – provided that their work experience was in a skilled job.
Group 3 – Architects, Engineers, IT Professionals
These people will have a Bachelors Degree in their area of work and, in some cases, may require registration with the relevant New Zealand licensing authority. These occupations are ANZSCO Skill Level 1.
The market rate for their services is well above $48,859, so they should not have any difficulty in meeting this test. Like before the changes, their partners will be entitled to an open work visa and their children to domestic student visas.
In fact, many people in these occupations may earn more than $91,718 which means they will be able to claim an additional 20 bonus points in their Expression of Interest for Residency. They will also most likely benefit from the additional points for skilled work experience.
Group 4 – Students undertaking Postgraduate Study
The circumstances for these people is largely unchanged. As before, they are entitled to work 20 hours per week part-time and their partner is entitled to an open-work visa. If the partner has a work visa, their school-age children are also entitled to domestic student visas.
Once they graduate they become entitled to a one-year open post-study work visa. Their partner and children’s visas also can be renewed for a further year.
Once they obtain ANZSCO level 1, 2 or 3 skilled employment for a salary of $48,859 or more (or their partner obtains skilled employment that meets the same test), they have an excellent pathway to residency. If they have a Masters or PhD level qualification then they will also be entitled to claim 70 points under the new scheme as opposed to 60 previously.
The Government’s intention in announcing these changes is clear. The policy is ‘Kiwi-First’ and is designed to make employers of low-skilled workers less reliant on recruiting foreign employees.
It is for this reason that work visas for low-skilled jobs will be for a maximum of 3 years, after which the visa holder will need to leave New Zealand.
Only people with good qualifications and work experience have the ability to renew their visas and remain in New Zealand and to eventually achieve residency.
If you are a worker in a low-skilled job you have little choice. You must either develop a plan to upskill yourself or plan to go home!