A box of chocolates from the Government!15 Dec 2022

After a very busy and challenging immigration year the Government has come to the party and delivered its Xmas present with nurses finally being added to the Green List (Tier 1) residence category.

Why it has taken so long to make an obvious and urgent “quick fix” to enable nurses (& midwives and other medical specialists) to now be able to directly, and immediately, apply for New Zealand residence is beyond common sense.

The Government has also taken this opportunity to add additional “in-demand” roles, such as machinery and crane operators, motor mechanics, telecom technicians and (all) teachers to Tier 2 of the Green List. This enables these workers to be eligible for New Zealand residence after working in such roles for two years.

The Green List provides a suitably dynamic policy vehicle to respond to skill shortage demands by providing residence pathways to migrants considering a move to New Zealand. Both migrants and employers need this certainty to inform their decision making and future planning. Registered Auditors will also be added to the Tier 1 (straight-to-residence) List in March 2023.

In response to the bus and truck driver shortage a “limited residence pathway” will be developed with the transport sector to attract migrants into these roles. It will be interesting to see what the end result looks like, and how this will align with other residence policy thresholds.

Immigration settings and processes play a key role in the decisions of migrant workers to decide on New Zealand, as opposed to, say, Australia or Canada. But this is only one factor. Other important considerations include the work role, pay and conditions, cost of living, lifestyle, schooling, social environment, support from friends or family, and the relocation timing, process and cost. Currently there is reasonable interest in New Zealand, but this can be attributed, at least in part, to the pent-up demand from having our borders closed for 2 years. It remains to be seen if this interest will continue through 2023.

How the tide has turned. One of this Government’s election promises was to reduce immigration, and to “discourage” low skilled migration, and here we are now providing residence pathways to bus and truck drivers. The world is certainly a very different place now, and the last three years have markedly changed the employment and immigration landscape. Reality and practicality are finally prevailing, but this is unlikely to right-the-ship, and it will continue to be a real challenge for New Zealand to attract the skills it needs, both now and in the future. There is not a lot that can be done to dress-up jobs to make them more attractive than what they are, so, in the long term, it may come down to making the immigration process itself one which is welcoming, fast, efficient and customer friendly, and which differentiates us favourably from other countries. Media reports confirm we are not there yet!

Working within immigration this past year has certainly been like a box of chocolates – you never know what you are going to get every day. Just over a month ago the Minister said the Green List would be reviewed next year, and that the policy for partners of Accredited Employer Work Visa holders to only be issued a visitor visa would start in December - and then all this has now changed. This has been a common theme during the year as immigration policies have chopped, changed and backtracked in line with the loudest voices. Interestingly, the one policy change the Government has stuck to its guns on, the new Active Investor Policy, has proved “underwhelming”, to say the least.

Kudos to the Government for the timely delivery of its box of chocolates, no doubt we will be eating from the same box throughout 2023!

Link: First published in Waikato Business News Recap 2022 Page 10