Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Key visa categories reopened

The Government has announced the resumption of selections for two residence visa categories visas that it says will help Kiwi businesses attract talent during the global worker shortage.

Immigration Minister, Michael Wood announced the changes at a speech today to business and migrant community leaders in Auckland.

“As the world recovers from COVID-19, labour shortages continue to be a global symptom,” Mr Wood said.

“We are listening closely to the concerns of businesses, many of whom have approval to hire migrants but are finding it difficult to recruit internationally in a constrained labour market. Today’s changes work in tandem with the immigration changes already made and will help further relieve labour shortages, and ensure a competitive edge to attract talent to New Zealand.

“We are resuming the Skilled Migrant Category under the current settings to help attract more workers.”

The first selection will be at 160 points, and subsequent selections at an increased threshold of 180 points, to better align with the future direction of the category and New Zealand’s rebalance goals, the Minister said.

More than 12,000 international migrants have applied for 511 different occupations across New Zealand since the Accredited Employer Work Visa opened.

“The Skilled Migrant Category provides a pathway for retaining the majority of these much needed skills in New Zealand permanently, strengthening our nation’s resilience to global shocks and economic security into the future,” said Mr Wood.

“Getting the long term settings of the category right is important for New Zealand’s future economic security, and ensuring that we can attract and retain high skilled talent. At the same time as resuming selections, we are commencing consultation on a proposed new system that will future proof the category and will further complement the new Green List and Highly Paid residence pathways.”

The previous system restricted the number applications which were progressed through a planning range, this meant that only 40% of SMC applications were processed in 2019.

“Our proposed changes, include removing the planning range, so that all applications that meet the criteria will be processed. It will also include a more simplified points system, will set a clear, fair and transparent eligibility threshold and offer several ways for people to demonstrate their skill level,” the Minister said.

“The proposed changes will also see a faster route to residence for very highly skilled migrants, such as university lecturers or scientists who hold a PhD, while other professionals such as teachers and registered tradespeople will have a clear route if they work for a period in New Zealand. The new system will improve processing times and there will be no cap on the number of people who can gain residence each year, if they meet the skills threshold.”

The Government is also delivering on a 2020 election promise to reduce barriers to access the Parent Category Visa, including increasing the number of parent resident visas granted each year and reducing the income thresholds.

“We recognise the importance for migrants resettling here to have a pathway for their parents to join them.”

“Re-starting the parent category is the right thing to do, and will see New Zealand become an even more attractive destination for high skilled migrants looking to resettle long term, knowing they can do so with their families. 

“Alongside reopening and modernising the category it means more family reunifications,” the Minister said.

The category will see a lower income threshold for sponsors, a new ballot, and the resumption of selecting expressions of interest from the existing queue starting 14 November, among other changes.

“The number of Parent Resident Visas granted each year will also increase to 2,500 a year,” Mr Wood said.

“Resuming selections from existing Expressions of Interest queue is a priority, and I know how important this is to many migrant families. I’m pleased to say selections will resume on 14 November, and up to 2,000 visas a year will be granted to people with existing expressions of interest.

“As part of modernising the Parent Category, from today, any new expressions of interest submitted will go into a ballot rather than add to the existing queue.”

Moving to a ballot means people will avoid a lengthy queue and they will be eligible for selection for two years after submitting their expression of interest, the Minister said.

An additional 500 visas a year will be granted from the ballot, starting with the first selection in August 2023.

“Through our reconnection plan and changes to immigration settings we have a system that works for New Zealand long-term. We have created an immigration system which is responsive to international factors, while giving New Zealanders confidence that there is a plan and robust principles underlying how we manage immigration,” he said.

“We know it is tough for many businesses at the moment, but there are positive signs. We are seeing a strong demand for the Working Holiday Scheme, with more than 30,437 applications approved since March, with arrivals expected to pick up in the coming months.

“We recognise the important role the immigration system plays in our nation’s economic future. We are committed to working with businesses to ensure we are striking the right balance”, Mr Wood said.

Further information about can be found at the links below:

·       Future of the Skilled Migrant Category Consultation

·       Skilled Migrant Category reopening

·       Parent Category

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