New Zealand migration stats show increment of more than 41,000 work visas in 2016, compared with around 16,000 in 2004. Migrants from United Kingdom (UK), Germany, Australia, South Africa and the United States (US) are most common.
Sectors like technology and construction suffer from a severe shortage of workers. Companies in these industries had little choice, but to recruit many of their employees from overseas. However, New Zealand migration policy changes recently revealed that it will contain stricter policies for skilled worker visas. These decisions follow similar decisions to the US and neighboring Australia.
This “Kiwis-first” approach by the government will a hot topic in the upcoming general election on 23 September this year. Ironically, new arrivals have helped the economy boom in the last decade, making it one of the strongest in the world, still opposition parties and the central bank have called for a review of current policies.
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Those calling for these changes have cited low wages and soaring house prices. New Zealand migration policy will introduce changes like minimum income requirements and time limit for seasonal workers. The country’s ‘Skilled Migrant Category’ is a points system based on factors like age, work experience, qualifications, and an offer of skilled employment. Immigration rules will prefer applicants to be under age 55, meet English language, health, and character requirements.
Further, New Zealand will announce two remuneration thresholds for applicants applying for residency under the Skilled Migrant Category. The government is setting a median income of NZ$ 48,859 a year for skilled jobs. The government will also set other threshold at 1.5 times the New Zealand median income of NZ$ 73,299 a year. These are for jobs that are not currently considered skilled but are considered well paid.
The scheme will award more points for skilled work experience and some recognized post-graduate qualifications. Applicants aged 30—39 will receive more points. Moreover, they will not award points for qualifications in areas of absolute skills shortages – for employment, work experience and qualifications in Identified Future Growth Areas as well as close family in New Zealand.
There will be an impact on people in low paying jobs although the changes expand the definition of skilled employment and allow others to obtain residency. Even so, those who have previously been unable to claim sufficient points for their employment will now be able to do so.
New Zealand’s Immigration Minister, Michael Woodhouse said, “it is 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”. He further said that these policies will strike the balance between reinforcing temporary nature of Essential Skills work visas and encouraging employers to hire more New Zealand citizens.
Public consultation on the changes to temporary migration settings will close on 21 May, with implementation planned for mid-August 2017.