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INZ have released the new immigration instructions for the Parent Category visa, coming into effect on 24 February 2020. These new instructions are the formalisation and finalisation of changes announced on 7 October 2019, and they impose a much higher income requirement on New Zealand resident or citizen children, who are seeking to sponsor a parent for residence.

Summary of the major changes

As already revealed in last year’s announcement, the former two-tier system for the Parent Category visa has been removed, taking away multiple options for establishing financial eligibility. Previously you could meet the requirements by transferring $500,000 to New Zealand, or having enough lifetime income, or through being sponsored by a New Zealand resident or citizen child (and their partner), provided they had sufficient income, either individually or jointly.

Under the new policy a parent is only able to be sponsored by their New Zealand resident or citizen child and only if the annual taxable income of that child, or their annual taxable joint income if relying on the child and the child’s partner’s income, is at or above the below approximate levels. The new financial requirements are based on a median salary (currently NZ$53,040) and will be reviewed each year:

Child sponsoring one parent NZ$106,080

(2 times the median salary)

Child sponsoring two parents NZ$159,120

(3 times the median salary)

If the sponsoring child is also relying on their partner’s income for the sponsorship:

Child and partner sponsoring one parent NZ$159,120

(3 times the median salary)

Child and partner sponsoring two parents total income NZ$212,160

(4 times the median salary)

If sponsoring more than two parents, then the income required is higher again – and even higher if a sponsor already has ongoing sponsorship obligations with other parents who have obtained residence under the Parent Category.

The sponsor’s income needs to be at the levels set out above for 2 out of the 3 years prior to receiving an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for residence, and this income can only be evidenced by tax statements from the Inland Revenue Department (IRD).

The sponsorship period, to which the adult child (and their partner) must agree, will be formally aligned with the New Zealand Superannuation residency eligibility requirement. Currently, this period is 10 years.

Only 1,000 residence places per year will be available under the Parent Category visa. This represents 1,000 parents per year only. A parent couple would be considered to take two of the available places.

Further details of the new policy

Now that the new Parent Category visa policy has been released in full, there are further details of which potential applicants should be aware. Applicants will need to satisfy family relationship and sponsorship requirements, as well as English language, health and character requirements.

Sponsorship requirements

Prior to the changes, the immigration instructions allowed a parent to make an application based on the single income of either their sponsoring child or their child’s partner. According to the new policy, to make an application based on a single income, only the sponsoring child’s income will be considered. The income of a sponsoring child’s partner can only be taken into account when making an application based on joint income. This means that even if a couple is living on a single income, where the sponsoring child does not generate their own income, the higher joint income threshold will apply to the visa application.

As discussed above, income requirements are based on the New Zealand median income for each year. The period over which a sponsor’s or sponsors’ income will be calculated and assessed is the three years ending on the last day of the month prior to the date the applicant/s were invited to apply. The median income is that in effect on the last day of each year of the three years for which the sponsor’s income is to be assessed. This means for example, that if the Invitation to Apply (ITA) is issued in May 2020, the median income in place on 30 April 2020 is what applies to that one-year income period. The relevant median income for the preceding year would be as at 30 April 2019, and as at 30 April 2018 for the year before that.

Family relationship requirements

Provided each applicant meets the family relationship requirements (and all other requirements), and the sponsor meets the significant income requirements, stacked for each applicant, there is no limit to the number of parent visas one person can sponsor. This is especially relevant for blended families, where both biological parents and stepparents may meet the family relationship criteria.

Potential applicants with complex family situations may find the new instructions especially difficult to navigate, and we advise that you consult a licensed immigration adviser if you would like more understanding of how the changes may apply to you and your family.

English language requirements

Applicants are required to meet a minimum standard of English, or to pre-purchase English for Speakers of Other Languages tuition to the specified level.

There are a variety of ways that an applicant may demonstrate their English ability is of the necessary level. If appropriate evidence is provided, applicant’s personal circumstances can establish their English language ability. These circumstances may include the country in which they live or have predominantly lived, whether their family members speak English, the nature of their employment or of their qualifications. They may also meet language requirements by achieving acceptable English language test results.

Instead of meeting the minimum standard of English, an applicant may pre-purchase ESOL tuition from the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) by paying the required charge to INZ (who collect this charge on behalf of TEC). The applicant must also sign the ESOL Agreement with TEC and return it to INZ before a resident visa can be granted.

Existing EOIs in the queue under the Parent Category

If you submitted an EOI (Expression of Interest) for the Parent Category visa, prior to it being closed, there are a couple of options available to you, depending on your situation. If you meet the requirements for the new version of the visa, you are able to update your EOI to reflect that your circumstances conform to the new criteria for the category. If you do not update your existing EOI, the information contained in it will be used as is and assessed against the new instructions.

If you know that you do not meet the new requirements, you can withdraw your EOI and apply for a refund of the EOI fee. If the withdrawal is not completed by the time of the May selection draw, the refund option will no longer be available.

Both courses of action involve filling out and returning specific forms to INZ, available on their website.

If you choose not to withdraw your EOI, it will be placed in a new queue, by order of the date it was originally received by INZ. If your EOI is declined, you will not receive a refund of the EOI fee.

Next steps

The Parent Category visa has been closed since 2016, causing much heartache to New Zealanders unable to bring their parents here to live. The overhauled category has also been the subject of intense public discussion since its announcement last year. The estimated number of EOIs sitting in the pool is 4,500 (representing approximately 6,500 people). We anticipate that only around 10% of those will meet the very onerous, new financial requirements. However, even though people’s ability to apply is curtailed by the policy, the number of applicants is further limited by capping the number of visas on offer at 1,000 per year. Many families will have to continue to wait, or choose to go elsewhere.

This policy does at least provide one avenue, albeit a very narrow one, for family reunification. However, as this is a new policy, we can expect teething problems. It may be that further clarification and information will come to light once INZ starts selecting EOIs and processing applications.

This blog post is not immigration advice; it is intended only to provide a summary of the new Parent Category visa option. If you would like to find out more about the new Parent Category visa and whether you may be eligible to apply, please do not hesitate to contact Pathways NZ.

Immigration New Zealand’s recent change to increase the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) passmark to 160 points has left many prospective applicants questioning how they will ever meet this new higher passmark. Hairdressers are particularly affected by this change.

There are some 350 hairdressers in New Zealand holding work visas and many of these people will have been planning to obtain New Zealand residence. Although these hairdressers will be able to claim points for skilled employment most will not now be able to reach the 160 points unless they can also claim points for a recognised qualification.

Experienced hairdressers who lack formal qualifications have the option to gain a New Zealand qualification, based on their skills and experience, through the New Zealand Hair and Beauty Industry Training Organisation (HITO). Hairdressers who are favourably assessed by the HITO can be awarded a New Zealand qualification. If this qualification is a level 4 New Zealand Certificate or National Certificate, or a higher qualification, then this qualification can contribute qualification points towards their SMC residence application. This process is called QbyE – qualification by experience.

For migrant hairdressers, gaining a recognised level 4 or higher New Zealand qualification, can contribute 40 points to their SMC points total and this can mean the difference between being eligible to apply for residence or remaining on work visas and having to find another pathway towards residence. For example: a 35-year-old hairdresser with 5 years of experience, who has been working in New Zealand for a year and has employment as a hairdresser outside of Auckland may claim around 125 SMC points (it is possible other points could be claimed). The additional 40 points awarded for a recognised NZ hairdressing qualification would mean this hairdresser would achieve the new SMC points threshold of 160.

Another significant recent change to the SMC policy was the introduction of more stringent English language requirements. Applicants who are not citizens of the UK, Ireland, Canada or USA must now evidence their English by undertaking one of several English language tests available.

More SMC policy changes will be introduced in 2017 which are expected to be increasingly targeted at the skill sets the Government wishes to attract and retain in New Zealand. It is possible these changes may further contribute to the challenges hairdressers face in obtaining residence.

The recent changes to the SMC residence category are indeed “challenging” and this is especially the case for particular employment roles such as hairdressers. While the process to obtain New Zealand residence has become more difficult this goal is still possible if hairdressers are able to claim SMC qualification points and can meet the English standard. However they and their employers will need to be proactive in this endeavour as the current opportunity may not be available from around mid-2017 when the further significant SMC policy changes are due to be introduced.

For expert immigration advice contact a Pathways Licenced Immigration Adviser.

Immigration New Zealand announced major changes to the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) to take effect from 12 October.

These changes affect many prospective migrants and are part of an overall strategy to reduce, by 5,000 per year, the number of people who are granted New Zealand residence. The new planning range is for 85,000 to 95,000 people to obtain residence over the next two years of whom 50,500 to 57,500 people will obtain residence from the SMC and business categories.

Places under the SMC have been in very high demand and there have been concerns raised at the increasing number of places taken up by people with relatively low level qualifications and employment roles. The policy changes increase the points threshold required for applicants to become eligible to apply for SMC residence and implement more robust English language requirements, and how these are to be met.

Summary of key changes

  • Minimum points required for EOI selection has been increased from 140 to 160 and only EOI’s scoring 160 points or more will be selected for the foreseeable future. Previously applicants scoring 100 points, including points for skilled employment, were able to be selected.
  • New English Language evidence requirements;
    • citizenship of Canada, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom or the United States of America provided the applicant has spent at least five years in work or education in one or more of those countries or Australia or New Zealand; or
    • a recognised qualification comparable to a New Zealand level 7 bachelor’s degree and gained in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom or the United States of America as a result of study undertaken for at least two academic years in one or more of those countries; or
    • a recognised qualification comparable to a New Zealand qualification at level 8 or above and gained in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom or the United States of America as a result of study undertaken for at least one academic year in one or more of those countries; otherwise
    • IELTS 6.5 mandatory requirement

Previously there was a wider range of options to evidence an applicant’s English language including working in skilled employment in New Zealand for one year. This option is no longer available and applicants who do not otherwise meet one of the above requirements must pass the IELTS test. Additional English test options will also be introduced from 21 November.

Applicants who already have Skilled Migrant Category residence applications under process or received their residence invitation before 12 October, and are yet to submit their application, will not be affected by the changes.

For many prospective applicants the main challenge will be to achieve the required 160 points for their EOI to be selected and in this regard the 30 bonus points available for employment outside of Auckland are likely to prove pivotal. The new English language requirement may also prove a difficult hurdle for many applicants.

More policy changes are expected in November to further fine tune the SMC policy. It is possible these changes may include the introduction of additional points criteria to recognise applicants in high level employment roles who would otherwise not be able to achieve the 160 points. It is also possible changes may be made to employment roles such as retail and restaurant manager, and chef, which Immigration New Zealand have identified as being “over-weighted” in SMC statistics.

Immigration policy changes always result in a great deal of uncertainty and misinformation and obtaining professional advice from a Licensed Immigration Adviser is timely and appropriate in this situation.

Immigration New Zealand announced major changes today to the parent category which have seen the category put on hold and the annual quota slashed by more than 50% for the next 2 years.

The parent category is just one residence category that makes up INZ’s New Zealand Residence Programme (NZRP). The NZRP sets a planning range for the target number of residence visas to be issued over a 2 year period. A recent review has determined that the target range for the next 2 years should be lowered from 90-100,00 down to 85-95,000. This change is particularly reflective in those areas where there is a fixed annual quota or cap such as the parent category.

The key changes to the parent category include:

  1. The parent residence category has been temporarily closed from today and Immigration New Zealand will not make any new selections from the parent category Expression of Interest (EOI) pool for at least the next 2 years.  Unfortunately this means that your parent’s EOI will not be selected for the foreseeable future.
  2. Immigration New Zealand have also announced a reduction in the number of places available under the family capped category from 5,500 to 2,000 people per year with the result that it is expected to take until July 2018 to clear existing lodged parent residence applications.
  3. If your parents have already received an invitation to apply for residence, they can (and should) still complete and lodge their application within the 4 months allowed – however these applications are unlikely to be assessed until after July 2018.
  4. INZ are also undertaking a further review of the parent category and may be changing the criteria for selection in the future meaning there can be no guarantee that people who have submitted an EOI will be invited to apply for residence in the future.

If you have any questions regarding an application under process, an EOI submitted or are thinking about making a new application please seek professional advise from a suitably qualified and experienced licensed immigration adviser.

INZ have announced major visa changes for South African citizens wishing to travel to New Zealand as visitors. From 21 November 2016 South African’s will no longer be eligible to enter “Visa-free” and will be required to apply for a visitor visa before travelling.

These changes are being made as a result of an increase in the number of South African nationals who have been refused entry at the New Zealand border in comparison to other visa waiver countries as they have not been deemed as ‘genuine visitors”.

Currently, people from South Africa do not need to apply for a visitor visa before travelling to New Zealand, with genuine visitors being granted a visitor visa on arrival. As a result of the change all visitors from South Africa will need to obtain a visa before travelling to New Zealand.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) General Manager Peter Elms says “We are committed to creating an immigration system that actively welcomes and encourages legitimate visitors to New Zealand, but at the same time is able to prevent those who do not meet immigration requirements.”

“These changes bring New Zealand into line with countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. People who have booked tickets prior to today’s announcement for travel on or after the 21 November should visit the Immigration website to find out how to apply for their visa.”

INZ recommends that applicants apply for a visitor visa about six weeks in advance of their intended travel dates. Visit the Immigration New Zealand website to view the visa criteria > https://goo.gl/9wlrL5

It is highly advisable for South African citizens considering a visit to New Zealand to seek professional advice well in advance of their visit to give their application the best possible chance of success.

INZ has recently announced that they will be increasing their fees and introducing a new immigration levy, these will take effect on 7 December 2015.

The increase follows from a review of immigration charges presented to cabinet and will see an overall rise of 8.3%.The last review took place in 2012 and at which time fees were increased by 16.7% overall. Most of the additional funding is directly linked to earlier budget decisions to increase spending to enhance New Zealand’s border security and support the current Vision 2015 programme. This funding will support the government’s objectives to fill skill gaps, attract investment, grow export education and reduce migrant exploitation.

The changes include an increase to application fees and the introduction of a migration levy for most temporary visas as well as a change in how the levy for residence visas is applied.

The levy will be charged upon application and one levy fee will be payable per application. The cost of the levy varies depending upon the visa type being applied for with temporary visa levy’s ranging from $10 up to $38. Residence levy’s range from $280 to $580 and they replace the migrant levy that is currently only paid upon the approval in principle of the application.

The current migrant levy is $310 per applicant over the age of 5, up to an application maximum of $1240 regardless of numbers of family members, so for some families there may actually be a cost saving. However given that the levy is paid upfront regardless of the outcome of the application INZ will now be collecting levy’s from all applications, therefore generating significant additional revenue from those applications that are declined each year.

  • A family of 4 applying under the skilled migrant category would previously have paid $1810 application fee and $1240 in migrant levy’s a total of $3050, they will now pay $1890 application fee and immigration levy of $580 a total of $2470 a saving of $580, which covers the cost of the EOI which has been increased to $530.
  • A single person applying for residence under SMC will be paying an additional $370.
  • A couple will see a small increase of $60.

Even with the increases New Zealand remains very competitively priced when comparing with some of the main competing migration destinations such as Australia. A review of Australian immigration fees shows their costs more than double those in New Zealand for many visa types. So we can certainly be assured that the price increase will do little to influence a persons decision to migrate here or not and unlikely to deter the skilled migrants the country is seeking.

The need to increase fees to provide the additional funding required to enhance services we understand and its inevitable that prices do rise but what we can’t understand is why complicate matters and charge two separate fees, the application fee and the levy? If the fees are being paid upfront regardless of application outcome surely it would be simpler for all concerned to wrap everything into one fee. Somewhere along the line there is going to be extra administration for anyone involved to record separate transactions.

Given the increase in the absolute fixed cost of making a residence application the cost of failure has also significantly increased. Not that anyone enters into a process thinking of failure but seeking professional advice from a licensed immigration adviser before starting the immigration process will be extremely beneficial and give you added peace of mind before parting with your hard earned cash.

In July 2015 the immigration minister announced a package of immigration measures aimed at improving the spread of investment and skilled workers across New Zealand.

Whilst current skilled migrant instructions incentivise migrants with 10 bonus points if their employment is outside of the Auckland region it has been recognised that this needs to be improved to address the issues being faced.

The issues are two fold, firstly Auckland itself has historically been a very popular city for migrants to settle, this has put pressure on infrastructure and resources with many economic commentators stating this as the fuel for the skyrocketing house market in Auckland. This is balanced with employers in the regions outside of Auckland struggling to find sufficient suitably skilled workers to meet their business demands and as a consequence not realising their potential for growth.

The government has introduced a number of measures to address all of these issues and in particular are encouraging both migrant entrepreneurs and skilled workers to settle outside of Auckland and contribute to the economic growth of the regions.

From 1 November applicants under the skilled migrant category will be able to claim 30 points for an offer of, or current skilled employment outside of the Auckland region, this is an increase of 20 points.

Whilst this may seem generous on the surface the reality is that very few applicants actually need to rely upon the current 10 bonus points as they can achieve the required 100 points with a combination of their age, qualification and or work experience and the offer of skilled employment. This is particularly relevant as most principal applicants are under the age of 40 and can maximise their points for age.

We do however see that this change will be extremely beneficial for a particular group of potential migrants. Where we see the points increase being materially beneficial is for those migrants in the older age bracket of 50+ where they do not have formal qualifications and rely upon work experience alone. Currently a 50 year old applicant with an offer of skilled employment and 10+ years of relevant work experience may only get to 85 points or 95 points if the employment is outside of Auckland (assuming they have no previous New Zealand work experience or close family in New Zealand). Potentially New Zealand is missing out on this skilled individual from contributing to economic growth for another 15+ years of their working life. With the new points system their points will increase to 115 and therefore opening the door for them to migrate and contribute.

As with any benefit of this type there will be conditions to which they must adhere and we believe that this is only reasonable. For those granted residence based upon an offer of skilled employment or current skilled employment where they have worked in the role for less than 3 months they are required to remain working outside of the Auckland region for a period of 12 months. Their resident visa will include Section 49 conditions to enforce this. The points for employment outside of Auckland are automatically applied, there is no option not to claim the 30 points, therefore all applications for employment outside Auckland will be subject to Section 49 conditions unless the exemption previously described applies.

As everyone s situation is different and unique to them, if you are considering migrating we would encourage you to seek professional advice from an experienced professional and determine how these changes may benefit you.