Government resets some immigration rules

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse announced a package of changes yesterday “designed to better manage immigration and improve the long-term labour market contribution of temporary & permanent migration”.

It amounts to cutting New Zealand’s cloth exactly to measure, prescribing precise requirements, instead of importing too many people with nowhere to go. What NZ Inc ought to have been doing through the immigration spike of the last 3 years, and what it ought to be doing now, is to present a strategy to receive newcomers which would entail jobs & homes outside Auckland. Instead of chasing builders to Australia at the last slump, NZ Inc would have thought about smoothing construction needs. Government-sponsored home construction is one option. Instead, as NZ First leader Winston Peters said yesterday, the changes amounted to “tinkering”.

Mr Woodhouse said: “The Government is committed to ensuring inward migration best supports the economy & 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 & 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 2 remuneration thresholds for applicants applying for residence under the skilled migrant category, which would complement the current qualifications & occupation framework.

“One remuneration threshold will be set at the New Zealand median income of $48,859/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/year for jobs that are not currently considered skilled but are well paid.

“The skilled migrant category 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 category and ensure we are attracting migrants who bring the most economic benefits to New Zealand.”

The Government is also proposing a number of changes to temporary migration settings to manage the number & settlement expectations of new migrants coming to New Zealand on essential skills work visas.

The 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 3 years for lower-skilled & 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 & 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.

Mr Woodhouse said: “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.”

Public consultation on the changes to temporary migration settings closes on 21 May, with implementation planned for later this year.

Changes to better manage immigration
Speech outlining the Government’s plan for immigration
Pathway to residence for some South Island temporary migrants

Attribution: Ministerial release, my observation.

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