Immigration Minister Hon. Michael Woodhouse announced further changes to the Residence and Work instructions this week.

The thing to keep in mind at this stage is that they are still proposed instructions, but it is highly likely that they will go through as they have been announced. There are good things in the announcement and not so good things. Overall if you are skilled migrant with a well paying job, then it is good, If you have a good job title but are on minimum wage, then not so good.

Salary bands

salary bands are being introduced to define skilled employment. The rationale is that even if your boss calls you a manager, someone being paid only $17 an hour doesn't seem valued enough to really fit the definition of "Manager". If you really were a skilled worker, then logically you would be in demand and would leave such a low paying job for a more appreciative boss. In reality there are many migrant workers with job titles that have been created to get a visa, and INZ know this well. Think of the salary bands as a way of INZ saying that they know what kind of tricks people are trying and this is how they are dealing with it.

The proposed salary bands are $48,856 for skilled work and $73,299 for unskilled but well paying work (which will now be acceptable to claim points for). These actual figures may change to reflect actual median salaries from time to time.


Essential skills work visa changes

Essential skills visas are the usual type of work visa most people get. The changes are going to be to also use salary bands as an additional definition of skilled work and restrict the total length the visa can be used for. There will be a 3 year limit for lower skill level workers with then a stand down period before you can apply again. So if you are in a lower skill level job, Level 4 or 5 most likely, then you can only work in NZ for 3 years and you will have to wait some time before you can apply for another essential skills work visa. 

There will also be changes around who can bring dependent children and partners, with it likely going to be that lower skilled job holders won't be able to bring children or partners, or that there will be some restriction around it.


South Island Contribution Visa

There will be a new residence visa open for just 12 months for skilled workers based in the South island. There are some conditions but this will be seen as an easy pathway to residence for some people, especially those on lower skill levels. A summary of the requirements is given below.

Pathway to residence for skilled migrants in the South Island who stay in the region

  • 1600 places available
  • Start from 22 May 2017, applications open for 12 months

The criteria to be able to apply

  • Must be currently on an essential skills work visa, full time, with a good employer
  • Have been employed on an essential skills work visa, in the South island for at least 5 years by may 22 2017
  • Be aged 55 years or younger
  • Meet health and character requirements

Other information

  • Partners and dependent children can be included
  • Initial visa will be a 2 year work to residence temporary visa
  • Subsequent visa will be a resident visa with a condition for staying a further 2 years in the south island


Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) changes

The changes in the SMC will also be aligned to benefit well-paid or highly skilled workers in their 30's. Some of the points changes will benefit workers who have good work experience and are well paid. Some bonus points will no longer be able to be claimed. Overall it seems that there is not  a lot of difference but while some people will be disadvantaged, other people will be advantaged.

Here is a summary of the changes 

The changes will benefit applicants with more skilled work experience, higher skill levels who are in the 30-39 age group with higher salary levels.

  • Applicants at skill levels 1,2,3 will only be able to claim points for skilled employment if their income is over the threshold
  • Income threshold is an additional method of proving skill level. Assumedly the ANZSCO definitions will continue to be used as well
  • Applicants with jobs at skill levels 4 or 5 may be assessed as skilled if they are being paid more than $73,299
  • Bonus points for jobs paying more than $97,718

Work experience

  • Generally more points will be able to be claimed for work experience
  • Points only awarded for skill levels 1,2,3
  • Points awarded for NEW ZEALAND work experience of 12 months or more, but no extra points for longer term work experience

Qualifications, Age, Partner

  • Points for level 9 or 10 post-graduate qualifications will increase
  • Points for applicants aged between 30~39 will increase
  • Partner’s points only awarded for bachelor’s degree or higher

Points will no longer exist for:

  • qualifications in an area of absolute skills shortage
  • skilled employment, work experience and qualifications in Identified Future Growth Areas
  • close family support in New Zealand