Government announces changes to immigration

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

The Government's tinkering with immigration is continuing, with a raft of new changes announced.

Speaking in Queenstown, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse announced two remuneration bands would be introduced to clamp down on the skilled migrant category pathway to permanent residence. They will be set at $48,859 (the median New Zealand income) for jobs that are currently considered skilled, and $73,299 for jobs currently not considered as skilled but highly paid.

The remuneration bands will also apply to the temporary essential skills visa category. The former will require applicants to earn more than the thresholds to be classified as highly-skilled. Earning less than that will mean applicants can still work here, but will be on a visa with a maximum length of three years and will face a stand-down period before being able to apply for a replacement visa.

The ability of lower-skilled migrants to bring their partners and children to work and study in New Zealand has also been removed, meaning they would only be able to visit unless they qualified on their own merits. See more detail from Immigration NZ on the review of temporary migrant work settings here, and for permanent residency settings here.

This is an attempt to reduce the attractiveness of moving to New Zealand with an immediate goal of settling here and will likely affect a swathe of migrants working in lower skilled areas whose visas have been repeatedly rolled over.

The second, higher threshold, will mean that anyone who earns more than that will automatically qualify as highly skilled, a change that is aimed at encouraging a higher calibre of workers.

Woodhouse also announced tweaks to the residence pathways for skilled migrants, removing the points available for qualifications in an area of absolute skills shortage and close family support in New Zealand.

Applicants with jobs at ANZSCO skill levels 1, 2, and 3 will only be awarded points if they earn above the lower income threshold, while bonus points will be awarded for anyone earning more than $97,718.

More points will be available for work experience and points for holding a Master's or Doctorate degree will increase, as will those for people aged 30-39.

The changes will take effect from 14 August.

For a longer look at the immigration situation, here's a piece that ran on Newsroom Pro.