Government completes immigration re-balancing act…9 Dec 2022

The recent re-opening of the Skilled Migrant and Parent residence categories largely constitutes the completion of the Government’s plans to “re-balance” New Zealand’s immigration policies, and it is certainly helpful to have had the uncertainty surrounding these categories finally addressed.

The Skilled Migrant category (SMC) has been the main job-based resi dence category through which, historically, more than 50% of all migrants gained New Zealand residence. The SMC has been suspended from when New Zealand closed its borders in April 2020 and there was no resident visa pathway for migrants until the 2021 Resident Visa began in December 2021 – and this visa only catered for migrants already in New Zealand and holding certain types of work visas. The Green List straight-to-res idence visa, which began in July, also only caters for some 90 roles and migrants must additionally meet very particular eligibility criteria. At least many nurses can now apply directly for SMC residence and do not have to go down the Green List 2 year work to residence route!

The resumption of the SMC was long overdue because it is an absolutely critical piece of the immigration puzzle. Many of the skills that New Zealand desperately needs would bypass us for other countries as no-one is going to relocate across the world with their family if they do not have the security that they can stay long term. They also need New Zealand residence to buy a house! The SMC will resume with the first Expression of Interest selection draw on 14 November. The Government has also released a consultation paper promoting a significant simplification of the SMC points regime from around mid- 2023.

The Parent residence category, which enables parents to join their children in New Zealand, has been closed since 2016. While firstly, the Labour opposition, and then the Labour Government, ran election campaigns promising to re-open the category this has been a very long time coming. Some 2,000 parents who have Expressions of Interest already submitted, and who meet the revised eligibility criteria, will be able to be approved for residence in each year. At this rate it is expected that it will take 3-4 years to clear the present queue. In addition, new Expressions of Interest, submitted after 12 October, will now go into a ballot draw from which 500 parents a year will be able to gain residence. Children must sponsor their parents for 10 years and need to evidence taxable income of at least 1.5 times the New Zealand medium wage – the level of actual income required also depends on the number of parents being sponsored and the number of sponsors. Because every family’s circumstances are very different there will never be a parent policy which is “fair and equitable” to everyone, as it is simply not possible to quantify all of the humanitarian considerations involved, and weigh these alongside a family’s financial standing.

The Government originally announced a “re-set” of New Zealand’s immigration policies, and then later amended this to a “re-balancing”. However, for many of us working in the immigration industry it just feels like we are back to where we started!

Link: First published in Waikato Business News October/November 2022 Volume 30: Issue 10 Page 15