The immigration balancing act…1 Jul 2022

The Government recently announced the rebalancing of immigration set tings. It is fair to say this was not - quite the immigration “reset” we had all been waiting on for the last 6 months, and when everything is weighed up, the final visa outcomes are likely to be little changed from what they were previously.

The main announcement that the borders will fully re-open at midnight on 31 July is hugely welcomed by everyone, and we can all now finally begin planning forward with the certainty that has been missing for the past 2 years. Families can now be reunited, employers can plan overseas marketing and recruitment, and schools can re-engage with their international communities.

A key part of the rebalancing is the requirement for employers employing migrant workers to hold employer accreditation with Immigration New Zealand from 4 July this year, and applications for this accreditation opened on 23 May. Once employers are accredited then jobs must go through a “Job Check” before the work visa application can be undertaken. For most roles the Job Check requires the employer to evidence through job advertising that there are no NZers available.

Roles which are on the new “Green List”, and roles where the remuneration is twice the NZ median wage (ie; $115,500), do not need to be advertised. The Green List comprises 85 specified roles designed to incentivise high-skilled healthcare, engineers, trade and tech sector workers to relocate to New Zealand. Roles on the Green List also provide either a fast track “straight to residence” pathway or a 2 year “work to residence” pathway.

Surprisingly, nursing and teaching roles, are both on the “work to residence” Green List and are not eligible for “straight-to-residence”. The Minister defended this approach by saying that employers wanted these workers to work for them for two years before they moved on, after getting their residence. Clearly this outcome has been influenced by public-sector employers – surely the priority is to attract these workers to New Zealand in the first place, and if they do move on from their original employment, they are only going to move on to the same employment roles within New Zealand. New Zealand is still the winner here, but not if they can’t be attracted here in the first place!

The Government also announced that 20,000 visa holders in New Zealand would have their visas extended by up to another 2 years. While this is a great news for those involved, it would seem this move is motivated as much by INZ’s need to minimise its own workload during a period of significant change, and high workload pressures. While we remain hopeful INZ can achieve its forecast processing timelines (eg: 10 days for an employer accreditation application) nobody is holding their breath!

As the world faces an increasing skills shortage the competition to attract talent to New Zealand is higher than ever. The world has moved on while our borders were closed, and New Zealand is now well-behind the 8 ball in the market for talent. We need to wait and see if the “immigration rebalancing” enables New Zealand to recover some of this lost ground and if the “Our country needs YOU!” message hits the target…..

Link: First published in Waikato Business News May/June Volume 30: Issue 5 2022 Page 25