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Visa and appeal processing as we move through Alert Levels 

Is Pathways available to assist me with my visa queries?

Our physical offices were closed but we remained open for business throughout the lockdown at Alert Levels 3 and 4. Now that we are at Covid-19 Alert Level 2, our Hamilton and Wellington offices are open again. In order to best protect our staff and our clients we have the following protocols:

• We will work remotely as much as possible by phone, email, skype and zoom.
• Any meetings will be by absolute necessity and by appointment only.
• Strict social distancing to apply – no handshakes.
• Personal details to be recorded for contact tracing.
• Hand sanitiser must be applied by everyone entering our office.

These protocols do not compromise our ability to continue to deliver the high quality, trusted and expert immigration services for which Pathways’ is reputed.

Is INZ still accepting and processing visa applications during Alert Level 2?

To date, the INZ priority has been to focus its limited resources on implementing the Epidemic Management Notice, pushing through applications from individuals who have a critical purpose for coming to New Zealand and processing Section 61 requests. Now that Alert Level 2 has started, INZ processing efforts will be expanded as follows:

Residence Applications

Priority will be given where the applicant is in New Zealand. For onshore applications priority will be given as below:

  • For Skilled Migrant Category (SMC), priority will be given to applications with job offers where:
    • Applicants have an hourly rate equivalent to or higher than twice the median wage (currently $51.00 per hour or an annual salary of $106,080 or more);
    • Applicants hold current occupational registration where registration is required by immigration instructions.
  • For Residence from Work Category applications (Talent (Accredited Employer), Talent (Arts, Culture and Sport), South Island Contribution, Religious Worker and Long Term Skill Shortage List), priority will be given to:
    • Applications which include a job offer with an hourly rate equivalent to or higher than twice the median wage (currently $51.00 per hour or an annual salary of $106,080 or more);
    • Applications which include a job offer which requires occupational registration where occupational registration is required by immigration instructions.
  • Second priority will be given to residence class visa applications where the applicant is out of New Zealand.

Temporary Entry Class Applications

  • Priority will be given to applications for critical workers to support the Government response to COVID-19 and for other temporary visa applicants that are in New Zealand.
  • For Essential Skills work visa applications, Immigration instructions require INZ to consider a range of factors, including the need to help New Zealand businesses provide their services, while protecting the employment opportunities for New Zealanders.
  • For an Essential Skills work visa to be granted, INZ must be satisfied that at the time the application is assessed there are no New Zealanders available to do the work being offered.

Will EOI draws continue?

Skilled Migrant Category and Parent Category Expression of Interest (EOI) draws have been deferred. INZ has reduced processing capacity during the COVID-19 Alert Levels, and it is difficult for applicants to obtain the required documents and evidence to submit an application at this time.

The deferrals are a temporary measure, and INZ have stated that they will reassess this policy as the COVID-19 situation develops.

I received an Invitation to Apply just before/during the COVID-19 lockdown, which made it hard to submit an application. Is there any extension of timeframes?

If you:

  • submitted an Expression of Interest (EOI) for a Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) residence visa, or
  • submitted an EOI for an Investor 2 residence visa, and
  • received an ITA between 1 November 2019 and 15 April 2020

–then you now have an additional six months to submit your residence application.

I was issued a Potentially Prejudicial Information (PPI) letter on an application just before the lockdown, or during Alert Level 2, what should I do?

For applications where a PPI letter was sent prior to 25 March 2020, the due date for response is extended until Friday 12 June 2020 (4 weeks after New Zealand entered Alert Level 2, allowing for the statutory holiday on 1 June 2020).

For applications where a PPI is sent on or after the commencement of Level 2 (i.e. 14 May 2020), the applicant has 4 weeks to respond.

INZ recognises that circumstances are difficult and some information may be difficult to obtain at this time. If you require a further extension, INZ will be considered on a case by case basis. It is recommended that you contact your case officer to discuss if necessary. 

I am a New Zealand resident and I received a deportation liability notice, what should I do?

If you have received a deportation liability notice from Immigration New Zealand you should urgently seek professional advice.

If your deportation liability has been previously suspended you do not need to do anything further, you will need to ensure to comply with the suspension terms stated in the notice.  If your deportation liability is not suspended then you have 28 calendar days to submit an appeal to the IPT against deportation liability. There is no extension on the timeframe to appeal regardless of the lockdown and the broader COVID-19 response. If the appeal opportunity lapses then you will be deported.

If you have received a letter from INZ resolutions with a questionnaire you are strongly encouraged to seek specialised professional advice.

I am a temporary visa holder and I received a deportation liability notice, what should I do?

It is our strongest recommendation that anyone facing deportation liability has a specialised adviser or lawyer represent them as there are very serious consequences if deportation proceeds, and these are very complex matters.

There are no options for extension of any of the timeframes provided for response and appeal.  You will have 14 calendar days to give good reasons to INZ compliance to consider cancelling your deportation liability, and 28 calendar days for appeal.  The appeal timeframe is not paused while waiting on INZ compliance to make a decision. There is no extension on the timeframe to appeal regardless of the lockdown and the broader COVID-19 response. If the appeal opportunity lapses then you will be deported.

My resident visa application was declined and I want to appeal, what should I do?

The 42 day deadline begins from when the decision is received.  There are no options for extension of any of the timeframes provided to appeal regardless of the lockdown and the COVID-19 response. If the appeal opportunity lapses then there is no way to later recover this.

Here at Pathways our team includes specialised advisers who work on these matters and who are available to assist you.

Will my appeal be considered during Alert Level 2?

Most appeal considerations were on hold during lockdown but they have resumed.

Visa expiry and visa extensions

My visa has expired and I am now unlawful, what should I do?

If you are unlawful you should urgently seek advice on submitting a Section 61 request to regain your lawful status. For anyone who is unlawful it is always in their interests to make every endeavour to recover their lawful status sooner rather than later.

My temporary (work, student, visitor, limited) visa expires between 2 April and 9 July, what do I do?

Your visa will be automatically extended to 25 September 2020 on the same conditions as your current visa and you are not required to undertake any action. Confirmation of the visa extension will be emailed to you by INZ and you should follow up with INZ if you do not get this email before your visa expires.

I want to apply for a longer term visa beyond 25 September what can I do?

INZ is operational and new applications can still be submitted. The processing timeframes may be longer than usual as priority is being given to applications for “essential workers” and Section 61 requests.

I have an approved visa but am currently offshore. Can the first entry date on my visa be changed to allow me to travel later instead of applying for a variation or new visa? Or, can my visa be extended so I don’t need to re-apply?

INZ are aware of this concern, but have not yet announced a decision. In the case of work visas, INZ have communicated that they will be considering the wider impacts of COVID-19, including changes to New Zealand’s labour market when arriving at a decision. For visitors, INZ are again aware of this concern and working towards a resolution, but it is not a priority at this time.

It is hoped that the recently passed Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Bill 2020 will help the Government to provide certainty on these questions.

Varying visa conditions

I need to vary the conditions of my visa (such as to change employers) – what can I do?

INZ are currently working on a process to facilitate the high number of applications. We will update this page as soon as this process is announced.

However, if you are already employed as an essential worker, there is a specific protocol. Please contact Pathways if you require assistance. 

I have a work visa and are either working less than, or being paid for less than, 30 hours a week which is the minimum requirement of my visa – will this be a problem for me?

Usually the requirement would be for you to work, and to be paid for, the work hours set out in your employment agreement but given the unprecedented circumstances, and the government enforced restrictions, our view is that it would be unfair and unreasonable for this situation to be held against you and recommend no action is required at this time but to review this situation often. The recently passed Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Bill 2020 should help the Government to provide certainty on these questions. 

I am a work visa holder and lost my job, what should I do?

Under normal circumstances you and or your employer would be required to inform INZ about this change in circumstance. However these are far from normal circumstances and we believe the government and INZ will be working on interim measures and processes that will be applied to this, and similar situations, to ensure visa holders are not unfairly compromised by something which is completely outside of their, and their employers, control. We recommend no action at this time except to regularly check back to our website or the INZ website for further updates for updates. In the meantime you could seek alternative employment and be prepared to make a new work visa or variation of conditions application.

The recently passed Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Bill 2020 should help the Government to provide certainty on these questions.

I have been offered a job in an essential work role and need to change my existing visa, or apply for a new visa, before I can begin work. How can I do this?

There is the ability to escalate a work visa application for an essential skills worker. Please contact Pathways to learn about this process and requirements.

Wage subsidy scheme and Wage subsidy extension

I am a work visa holder and my employer wants to know if they can obtain the Government wage subsidy for me and if this will affect my visa?

All New Zealand employers who have been adversely affected by COVID-19 are eligible to apply for the Wage Subsidy. To qualify a business must:

  • be registered and operating in New Zealand
  • have employees who are legally working in New Zealand
  • have experienced a minimum 30% decline in actual or predicted revenue over the period of a month, when compared with the same month last year, and that decline is related to COVID-19*
  • have taken active steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19
  • retain the employees named in the application for the period of the subsidy.

Those who have a New Zealand work visa or a condition on their New Zealand temporary visa that allows them to work in New Zealand, come under the definition of legally working in New Zealand.

*For the Wage Subsidy Extension, an employer must have experienced a revenue loss of at least 50% for the 30 days before the employer applies for the extension, compared to the closest period last year.

I am employed in New Zealand but am currently overseas. Am I eligible to receive the wage subsidy?

If you are overseas on leave, but are normally employed in New Zealand and otherwise meet the criteria for the wage subsidy scheme or extension, your employer can seek the wage subsidy for you. The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has advised that you discuss this matter with your employer and agree whether paid or unpaid leave is being taken.

I am in New Zealand on a Specific Purpose work visa and the project has been temporarily suspended due to COVID-19. Will my employer cover my wages under the Government’s wage subsidy scheme?

This will depend on who the employer is as per your employment agreement. If your employer is based in New Zealand then you are most likely to be covered under the Government wage subsidy scheme or extension. In case of employees seconded to New Zealand for a specific project by an overseas company, your wages would be the responsibility of your overseas employer.

I am a work visa holder, can my employer force me to take my leave in this time?

An employer, whether they are using the wage subsidy scheme or wage subsidy extension or not, cannot unlawfully compel an employee to use their leave entitlements. However, your employer may require you to take annual leave, including because of temporary workplace closure due to COVID-19, provided they have first consulted with you and provided 14 days notice before the annual leave is to be taken.

Work visa holder entitlements

Are migrant employees eligible for publicly funded healthcare?

A person is eligible for publicly funded health and disability services if they hold a work visa that either:

  • entitles them to remain in New Zealand for two years or more (work visas start on the person’s first day in New Zealand) OR
  • entitles them to remain in New Zealand for a period of time which, together with the time that person has already been lawfully in New Zealand immediately prior to obtaining the visa, equals or exceeds two years

All temporary visas holders in NZ are eligible for publicly funded healthcare if it is related to COVID-19, regardless of their visa status.

If I am not a citizen nor a resident, will I be able to receive treatment for COVID-19?

All people in New Zealand are eligible for publicly funded services to treat COVID-19. This is regardless of visa status. Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 should contact Healthline for free on 0800 358 5453 or their doctor immediately.

INZ have reiterated that immigration status will not impact on a person’s ability to receive healthcare. Their treatment will be in complete confidence and their information will not be passed on to other agencies.

I am a work visa holder can my employer deny me my leave in this time (including sick leave if I am sick)?

Employees are entitled to four weeks of paid annual leave, after each 12 months of continuous employment for their employer.

Employers cannot unreasonably refuse to  allow an employee to take the leave to which they are entitled. However, with regard to when you take leave, your employer may decline a request for annual leave if they are able to provide a genuine business reason for declining.

If you require leave because of COVID-19, you may be eligible for the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme. 

Employer obligations

What are my obligations as an employer surrounding leave at this time?

Usual obligations continue to apply. An employer, whether they are using the wage subsidy scheme (or wage subsidy scheme extension) or not, cannot unlawfully compel an employee to use their leave entitlements. The Government has also clarified that an employee cannot have their receipt of the wage subsidy made conditional on their taking annual leave. However, you may require an employee to take annual leave, including because of temporary workplace closure due to COVID-19, provided you have first consulted with your employee and given them 14 days notice before the annual leave is to be taken.

Similarly, employers cannot unreasonably refuse to  allow an employee to take the leave to which they are entitled. With regard to when employees take leave, you may only decline a request for annual leave if you have a genuine business reason for declining.

My employee is unable to work as they (or a family member they are caring for) has COVID-19, or are considered high risk. What sick leave entitlements are they eligible for?

The employee may be eligible for the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme which offers the same rates as the wage subsidy scheme of $585.80 per week full time and $350.00 per week for part time workers.

Do I have to pay the new minimum wage of $18.90 from 1st April?

Employees must still be paid for the work they do.  They must be paid at least the new minimum wage for each hour of work they do, regardless of whether they are working from home or at an essential business.  If you as the employer are unable to amend your payroll system during the Alert Level 4, you should backpay your employees as soon as you are able to do so.

Entering and/or remaining in New Zealand

Are there any exceptions to the travel ban for people who are not New Zealand citizens or permanent residents?

INZ have announced immigration instructions to allow people not included, or excepted under the current travel ban, to be granted a visa or a Variation of Conditions to travel to New Zealand. You can request travel to New Zealand for the following reasons:

  • essential health worker
  • other essential worker
  • Tongan or Samoan national requiring essential travel to New Zealand
  • partner or dependent child of student or work visa holder
  • partner or dependent child of a New Zealand citizen or resident
  • Australian citizen or permanent resident that normally resides in New Zealand
  • humanitarian

The threshold for exceptional circumstances is extremely  high. As at 21 May 2020, INZ have received 9,210 requests from people who believe they are eligible to be granted an exception to the border closure. Of the 9,210 requests decided so far, only 1,879 have met the criteria and have been invited to apply for a visa.

Please contact Pathways if you would like to discuss the process and the requirements for making a travel request.

If I am permitted entry to New Zealand, will I have to go into quarantine?

Yes. From midnight on Thursday, 9 April, anyone entering the country will have to undergo 14 days of quarantine or managed self-isolation in a government-approved facility. The Government will cover the cost of accommodation in these facilities.

I am a temporary work visa holder and am currently overseas. I cannot travel back to New Zealand for my job right now, does this affect the validity of my current work visa?

If the work visa is linked to a specific job and the job is still available, then the visa will remain valid and you will be able to travel to New Zealand once the travel restrictions are lifted. You may be able to travel sooner if you meet the exception criteria.

However, if your job is no longer available, then the work visa will no longer be valid.

Essential businesses and essential workers

What is an essential business?

A list of businesses considered essential can be found here.

What is an essential health worker?

A list of essential health workers exempt from the travel ban can be found here.

I am an essential worker on a temporary visa – there have been changes to my work circumstances because of COVID-19. What should I do?

Effective from 16 April, 2020, essential workers are able to apply for a Variation of Conditions of their visa in limited scenarios. While New Zealand remains at Alert Level 3 or 4 and for the six weeks following:

  • Work visa holders with employer-specific work visas already employed in essential services will be able to vary their hours and be redeployed to do other roles within their current workplace. They can also perform their current role in a different workplace to help essential businesses keep operating.
  • International students who are already employed in an essential services role will be able to work longer hours for their current employer.

Are there any special allowances for supermarkets and their employees?

Previous immigration instructions that allowed you to work more than 20 hours on a student visa if you were employed at a supermarket on 23 March 2020 ended on 25 April 2020. Employers must apply for a short-term variation of conditions if an employee wishes to work more than 20 hours.

I am a healthcare worker on a temporary visa. Are there any changes I should be aware of?

Immigration Instructions have been issued which change temporary work visa settings to support the health sector response to managing COVID-19.

International Students currently employed in healthcare roles (including aged residential care) will now be able to work full-time for three months (from 3 April to 3 July 2020 inclusive) in order to support the public health response to COVID-19. Normally students are only permitted to work up to 20 hours/week and full-time only during holiday periods.

INZ have also advised that ‘Lower skilled’ temporary healthcare workers that are currently in New Zealand can now work in New Zealand for an additional 12 months before they are subject to the stand down period.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) have announced extensions for some residence applicants who have received an Invitation to Apply (ITA).

If you:

  • submitted an Expression of Interest (EOI) for a Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) residence visa, or
  • submitted an EOI for an Investor 2 residence visa, and
  • received an ITA between 1 November 2019 and 15 April 2020

–then you now have an additional six months to submit your residence application.

The normal timeframe to submit an application after receiving an EOI is four months. With the additional six months, the new time allowance is a total of 10 months from the date of the ITA. This extension is an acknowledgement of the significant difficulties applicants have been experiencing in compiling the required documents and information to lodge their residence application.

The Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Bill 2020, which was passed last week, offered some hope that the Government would exercise its new powers to waive some mandatory document requirements. It appears that a different approach is being taken. Though this extension of time is good news, it strongly suggests that INZ will be unlikely to waive any lodgement requirements pertaining to mandatory documents as it should now be possible to organise these in the extended time being given.

This new move may also enable INZ to stagger their processing of residence applications. The huge queue of unprocessed applications has been a cause of distress for some time now. The global crisis and COVID-19 lockdown have exacerbated this problem, setting back INZ workforce capabilities and slowing down the processing timeframes even further. By allowing applicants more time to submit, INZ are also potentially allowing themselves more time to process applications.

Regardless of this extension, it remains our strong recommendation that all residence applicants submit their applications as soon as possible. Do not delay an application because there is more time.  The processing queue is only getting longer. Applications are prioritised according to new COVID-19 prioritisation criteria. After taking account of these priorities all other applications are assessed in date order of lodgement.

If you would like help with your residence application, or you are having difficulties compiling your residence application documents, please contact Pathways to speak with a Licensed Immigration Adviser.

With Alert Level 2 now in effect, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has announced new immigration instructions around visa prioritisation. INZ processing capacity has been limited since the country was put in lockdown at Alert Level 4. Alert Level 3 saw incremental improvement and now, as more staff go back to work (up to 70% of Immigration Officers), residence class visa applications will resume processing, and will be prioritised alongside some temporary class applications.

To date, the INZ priority has been to focus its limited resources on implementing the Epidemic Management Notice and pushing through applications from individuals who have a critical purpose for coming to New Zealand. From today, INZ processing efforts will be expanded as follows:

 

Residence Applications

Priority will be given where the applicant is in New Zealand. For onshore applications priority will be given as below:

  • For Skilled Migrant Category (SMC), priority will be given to applications with job offers where:
    • Applicants have an hourly rate equivalent to or higher than twice the median wage (currently $51.00 per hour or an annual salary of $106,080 or more);
    • Applicants hold current occupational registration where registration is required by immigration instructions.
  • For Residence from Work Category applications (Talent (Accredited Employer), Talent (Arts, Culture and Sport), South Island Contribution, Religious Worker and Long Term Skill Shortage List), priority will be given to:
    • Applications which include a job offer with an hourly rate equivalent to or higher than twice the median wage (currently $51.00 per hour or an annual salary of $106,080 or more);
    • Applications which include a job offer which requires occupational registration where occupational registration is required by immigration instructions.
  • Second priority will be given to residence class visa applications where the applicant is out of New Zealand.

 

Temporary Entry Class Applications

  • Priority will be given to applications for critical workers to support the Government response to COVID-19 and for other temporary visa applicants that are in New Zealand.
  • For Essential Skills work visa applications, Immigration instructions require INZ to consider a range of factors, including the need to help New Zealand businesses provide their services, while protecting the employment opportunities for New Zealanders.
  • For an Essential Skills work visa to be granted, INZ must be satisfied that at the time the application is assessed there are no New Zealanders available to do the work being offered.

 

As the situation develops, international travel restrictions ease and domestic labour market conditions adjust, prioritisation criteria may also change. The Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Bill 2020 is making its way through the House, and will have a huge impact on immigration policy once it receives Royal Assent and takes effect. In the meantime, Immigration Officers have discretion to prioritise other applications when it is considered necessary to do so.

Though onshore offices have reopened, offshore offices remain closed, and delays can still be expected. The National Area Documentation Office (NaDO) has also reopened, with some staff working onsite. Given that processing capacity, though improved, is still limited, INZ encourage applicants to apply online for eligible visas.

If you are putting together a visa application for one of these newly prioritised categories, we strongly suggest that you seek professional advice. Contact Pathways today to speak with a licensed immigration adviser.

*Update: this Bill has now been through the select committee process and was passed on 15 May 2020. The Bill has been modified and now contains explicit safeguards designed to ensure that the new powers cannot be used to materially disadvantage the class of visa holders concerned. Exactly what the Government will do with these powers is yet to be announced.*

 

The Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Bill 2020, introduced to Parliament this week, is intended to give the Government greater flexibility and capacity  to respond to the immigration challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The powers set out in the Bill are specifically for the purposes of addressing the COVID-19 outbreak and because the powers proposed are extraordinary, and only for a specified purpose, the powers are time-limited. It is expected the Bill will pass into law by 15 May 2020.

The eight powers the Government is proposing to introduce into the Immigration Act 2009, are:

  • the power to impose, vary or cancel conditions for classes of temporary entry class visa holders
  • the power to vary or cancel conditions for classes of resident class visa holders
  • the power to extend the expiry dates of visas for classes of people
  • the power to grant visas to individuals and classes of people in the absence of an application
  • the power to waive any regulatory requirements for certain classes of application
  • the power to waive the requirement to obtain a transit visa
  • the power to suspend the ability to make applications for visas or submit Expressions of Interest in applying for visas by classes of people, and
  • the power to revoke the entry permission of people who arrive either on private aircraft or marine vessels (to align them with people who arrive on commercial flights, who can already be refused entry).

There are several reasons for the Government to introduce this legislation with urgency.

There are some 350,000 temporary visa holders now in New Zealand who cannot travel home, and this situation may last for some time. Immigration New Zealand already has long visa processing queues and has had, and will continue to have for the foreseeable future, significantly reduced visa processing capability. Immigration New Zealand has a significant visa bottle-neck that is only going to get worse and something needs to be done to address this.

The legislation will enable large numbers of visa holders and applicants to have their visa situations addressed unilaterally, which is a much quicker, more efficient and cost-effective method than having to deal with many thousands of individual visa applications. And, in order for the processing queues not to keep getting longer, the Bill looks likely to stop some new visa applications, potentially visitor and work visas, from being lodged for offshore applicants. This makes sense as these people are currently unable to enter the country anyway until border restrictions are eased.

This Bill is a necessary step to enable swift changes to immigration settings during this extraordinary time and represents a genuine attempt by government to help migrants who are currently in a vulnerable and uncertain visa situation. Our understanding is that these powers will be used for the benefit of migrants, and not to their detriment, and on this basis Pathways’ generally welcomes the legislation – subject as always to the policy detail.

It is not clear at this stage exactly what these powers will mean for particular visa holders or applicants however we have formed the following preliminary views based on our reading of the situation. It should be appreciated that these are only our views on potential outcomes of this Bill at this time and readers should form their own views on what the Bill will mean for them.

The power to impose, vary or cancel conditions for classes of temporary entry class visa holders

Our view is that this power is intended to relax employment conditions and to allow the redeployment of migrant workers to a different employer or location. We are hopeful that this could lead to open work visas conditions for existing work visa holders or, at least, more flexible work visa conditions – possibly for up to 6 months or longer.

Many work visa holders have either lost their jobs or have had their wages and/or work hours reduced, all of which means they are technically in breach of their visa conditions. Varying the work visa conditions could, and should, at least alleviate these current visa breaches. This would be good news for employers also who are equally desperate for stability at this time.

This power could be used to “revisit” already approved offshore work visas which were approved on the basis of labour market conditions at that time. The labour market is now changing and the job may no longer be available or it can now be filled by a New Zealander. Offshore low-skilled work visa holders would appear to be most at risk here.

It is hoped that this opportunity is taken to also address the situation with work-to-residence visa holders whose remuneration has fallen below the policy threshold through no fault of their own.

The power to vary or cancel conditions for classes of resident class visa holders           

Our view is that this power should extend the timeframe in which an offshore resident visa holder has to enter New Zealand for the first time – as these people cannot currently enter New Zealand and are at risk of losing their resident visa status.

The power to cancel resident visa conditions most likely relates to Section 49 of the Immigration Act and could be applied to those conditions which require visa holders to work in specific employment for 3 or 12 months. It could potentially also be applied to Investor Residence visa holders who are required to spend a designated number of days in New Zealand but have been unable to do so due to travel restrictions.

It is interesting that in the introduction of the Bill mention was made of the 20,000 Skilled Migrant Resident visa holders who obtained residence since April 2018. There is no obvious reason to mention this unless thought is being given to using the Bill’s powers to, potentially, extend the travel conditions of Resident Visa holders or even transition these holders to permanent residence.

The practical application of this power remains to be seen.

The power to extend the expiry dates of visas for classes of people

This proposed power could be used to address the situation where an approved visa holder is unable to enter New Zealand by the first-entry date stipulated by their visa. However, this still does not get these people through the border and any extension will need to be aligned with some relaxation of the current border restrictions and we do not know as yet when this will happen.

Another potential application could be to provide a further extension to temporary visa holders in New Zealand, if travel restrictions remain and people cannot access flights to get home. In early April Immigration New Zealand was able to unilaterally extend the temporary visas of some 85,000 visa holders in New Zealand whose visas were expiring between 2 April 2020 and 9 July 2020. All these people had their visas extended to 25 September and this action was enabled under the Epidemic Management Notice issued by the Government. It is pragmatic and cost effective for the Government to manage significant numbers and types of visas in this manner and in conjunction with its COVID-19 management and planning.

The power to grant visas to individuals and classes of people in the absence of an application

This power affords flexibility to accommodate unusual or urgent situations. A specific intention of this power is to allow the grant of visas to persons who are unable to submit an application, for example, due to sickness.

The power to waive any regulatory requirements for certain classes of application        

This would allow INZ to waive mandatory application requirements which may be difficult to meet in the current circumstances. Such requirements could include immigration medicals, police certificates and other mandatory documents which simply cannot be obtained at present. The question remains whether an applicant’s SMC Invitation to Apply (ITA) expiry date will be extended. If the expiry date is not extended can the application be accepted for lodgment with an automatic waiver for particular lodgment requirements or will each applicant need to first obtain a waiver approval from INZ?

The power to suspend the ability to make applications for visas or submit Expressions of Interest in applying for visas by classes of people

The apparent purpose of this power is to stop applicants from lodging new applications. The main reason for this potential outcome is that INZ does not have visa processing capability currently and it does not wish to see the visa queue grow further until it has this capability – which may not be for some time.  This power also accommodates the situation that offshore applicants are not able to actually travel to New Zealand and there is no point in them making visa applications until the border is opened to allow their entry.

There are many possible applications of this power, and the full extent of it is not clear.

In the immediate short term, it could be that INZ will not accept any new visitor visa applications or low skilled work visa applications from offshore applicants. EOI draws for SMC and Parent Category visas have already been suspended, and it is likely, under this power, that EOI submissions could cease to be accepted in these categories for up to 3 months (at a time). Again there is no point in allowing an EOI to proceed to a residence invitation if an applicant cannot provide the mandatory application documents.

We expect that Investor 2 Category EOIs will be unaffected given the clear need for economic stimulation in the wake of COVID-19.

Until more information becomes available, it is not certain exactly what the implications of these proposed powers will be on immigration policy and visa processing but there is no doubt they will be significant and far-reaching – and in the main, will address the current uncertainties of many visa holders.

One thing we do know is that there will be huge financial implications for Immigration New Zealand. It would have lost $20 million or more in foregone application fees from its temporary visa extension action in April and this is likely to rise substantially with actions resulting from this new Bill.

The focus of the Bill is largely on the temporary visa situation, which is understandable. The pity is that there are some 20,000+ residence applications sitting in the queue to be processed. These are for individuals and families whose lives are on hold waiting for the long term security a resident visa will give them to plan and get on with their lives in New Zealand. This empowerment to buy a home and to actually spend money to build their future is exactly the type of impetus New Zealand needs at this time to get the economy moving.  Alas this may be just a bridge too far!

Information about the Select Committee process, including a copy of the Bill is available on the New Zealand Parliament website.

If you would like to discuss what these proposed powers could mean for you and your immigration journey, please contact Pathways to speak with a licensed immigration adviser.

 

INZ have announced the deferral of Expression of Interest (EOI) selections for Skilled Migrant Category and Parent Category residence visas. This decision, a consequence of the coronavirus outbreak, is a temporary measure. INZ have stated that this situation will be reassessed as the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold.

This decision has been made for a number of reasons:

  • INZ’s visa processing capabilities are significantly reduced, and all available resources are being put towards essential services visa applications.
  • Obtaining the necessary documents and evidence to make an application for one of the relevant residence visas is very difficult at this time.
  • To mitigate risks to public health, the Government wishes to discourage travel while New Zealand is at a heightened COVID-19 alert level.
  • There are currently severe restrictions on entry to New Zealand.
  • It is in the interests of fairness to discourage applications that are currently unable to be processed.

The coronavirus outbreak has caused global upheaval, and this inevitably means that immigration policy is majorly impacted. While this deferral decision will be disappointing for many, it is a necessary decision, commensurate with the Government’s other changes to immigration policy, and New Zealand’s broader COVID-19 pandemic response.

Skilled Migrant Category

The Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) selections usually take place fortnightly, but is now one of the visa categories put on hold. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, there had been a lot of public discussion about the growing queue of residence visa applicants, waiting to have their applications processed by INZ.

It is very unfortunate that SMC applicants will have to wait even longer for a residence visa outcome. However, given the state of affairs – and the fact that INZ simply do not have staff available to manage the selection of EOIs, or the Invitation to Apply (ITA) – it is understandable that these applicants have been asked to endure a further wait. Indeed, continuing to select EOIs from the SMC pool when there is no capability to process them, would only exacerbate the problem and create an even longer queue.

Parent Category

The now-deferred draw, which was scheduled for May, would have been the first selection from the Parent Category EOI pool. Parent Category applicants have weathered many difficulties in their visa journeys so far. The new Parent Category policy, which set a high eligibility threshold for applicants, has only been in force since February. Prior to that, the category had been closed for three years. Again, this deferral decision is very disappointing to those who have submitted an EOI in this category, but given the truly extraordinary circumstances, this decision seems inevitable.

What now?

While no EOI draws for SMC and Parent Category visas are happening at this time, INZ have stressed that it is a temporary measure. These draws will reopen. If you are interested in making an application for either of these residence categories, it is a good idea to obtain professional advice now, so that you have time to assess your options and plan for your future.

If you would like to do this, please contact Pathways for a free initial consultation. All of our Licensed Immigration Advisers are working from home during the national lockdown and are available to assist you with your immigration questions.

Despite the current COVID-19 Level 4 Alert, the timeframes for lodgement of appeals to the Immigration and Protect Tribunal (IPT) have not changed. The nationwide lockdown means that though appeal deadlines remain the same, the IPT’s physical office is closed.

Appeals can be sent via email to [email protected]. The IPT will consider the date received as the date the completed appeal form is received by email, provided the form is signed and payment details for the lodgement fee ($700) are included. The IPT has advised that hard copies of all documents can be sent when services are operating again. Submissions and evidence on new appeals can be provided later when the offices re-open.

Submissions and evidence on active appeals are to be sent to the same email address as above. If you have an IPT hearing in the coming weeks, it will be adjourned unless you are specifically contacted and told otherwise.

Appeal against a declined residence decision

If your residence visa application to Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has been declined, and you wish to appeal, IPT must receive your appeal no more than 42 days from the date on which INZ notified you of its decision.

If you are considering lodging an appeal on the basis of a declined resident visa application, it is critical to be aware that an INZ residence decision can only be appealed if you believe:

a. the Immigration New Zealand decision is wrong because you do satisfy the residence instructions in place when you applied for your visa, and/or

b. you have special circumstances that mean the Minister of Immigration should make an exception to those instructions. See section 187(4) of the Immigration Act 2009 to find out more about “special circumstances”.

Understanding whether or not you can reasonably make one of these arguments, and knowing how to do so, can require specialised knowledge. As an appellant, you are permitted to represent yourself in IPT proceedings. However, given the technical expertise and advocacy skills necessary, we recommend representation by either an experienced immigration lawyer, or a licensed immigration adviser.

Appeal against deportation on humanitarian grounds (non-resident) – unlawful appellants

 If you have unlawful status (e.g. because your visa expired or interim visa lapsed) in New Zealand and wish to appeal to the IPT, you should make sure to meet the applicable appeal deadline for your situation. Depending on your circumstances, different timeframes apply. If you are unlawful because you no longer have a valid visa, you have 42 days in which to lodge your appeal. If you have been served a Deportation Liability Notice, your window in which to appeal is only 28 days.

In any case, for your appeal to succeed, you must show the Tribunal that:

a. there are exceptional humanitarian circumstances that would make it unjust or unduly harsh to deport you from New Zealand, and

b. letting you stay in New Zealand would not be against the public interest.

As with residence visa appeals, if you are a non-resident appealing against deportation, you are permitted to represent yourself, but given the complexities of immigration law, and the severe personal consequences of a failed appeal, we highly recommend that you seek representation. This is our recommendation for any IPT proceedings you may choose to bring, including Deportation Appeal by a Resident/Permanent Resident, Refugee and Protection Status Appeal, or a Deportation Appeal (Cancelled Refugee and/or Protection Status).

If you would like to enquire about making an appeal, or have any questions related to this blog post, please contact Pathways NZ to discuss your options with one of our Licensed Immigration Advisers. All of our staff are working from home during the lockdown, and remain contactable by email and phone.

Details on the process for lodging a residence visa appeal, including the necessary form, are available on the IPT webpage.

New Zealand Courts and Tribunals are currently operating with limited capacity. Details of closures and restricted access can be found here.

The uncertainty around coronavirus intensifies uncertainty for New Zealand work visa holders.

Residence Visa applicants face continued wait times, as Immigration New Zealand (INZ) struggles to get through lodged applications. The problem is exacerbated by the lack of clear Government direction on aspects of immigration policy, and this uncertainty is likely to persist until after this year’s election.

Three years ago, there were about 150,000 people in New Zealand on all types of work visas and about 50,000 people a year were being approved for residence. Today there are almost 300,000 people – six percent of New Zealand’s population – now holding work visas and only 35,000 people a year are being approved for residence.

The number of people, under all categories, who can be approved for residence is determined by the New Zealand Residence Programme which is the name the Government gives to the number of people able to be approved for residence in any period. The most recent Residence Programme ran for the 18-month period ending 31 December 2019 and allowed for between 50,000 and 60,000 people to be approved for residence during that timeframe.

The Government has yet to decide on the Residence Programme numbers from the beginning of 2020 and this has left Immigration New Zealand in the difficult position of having to manage its residence application processing without any Government guidance or targets. This Government indecision is likely an outcome of the competing (and perhaps discordant) priorities within the coalition Government, intensified by election year politicking. However, even if a new Residence Programme is introduced in the near future, the number of residence approvals is highly unlikely to see an increase over the previous Programme number. In all likelihood, the number will be the same or reduced.

It is an understandable consequence of the high number of people now holding work visas, that a greater number of people can now qualify for residence and have lodged their residence applications. This has resulted in a greater number of mainly Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) and Residence-from-work (RFW) residence applications in the queue. This increase in residence applications, together with the limitations imposed by the previous Residence Programme, and now the lack of any Programme, has rendered INZ unable to process residence applications in a timely and transparent manner.

Late last year, media reports (extrapolating from INZ figures) stated that the number of days it took for 75 percent of resident visas to be processed had increased by 76 days. This was despite INZ hiring 177 more staff. High staff turnover and the diverting of Immigration Officers away from residence processing to undertake the increased volume and urgency associated with work visa applications (at historically high levels), has not helped to relieve the significant pressure on residence visa processing times.

The outcome is that there are SMC applications lodged in December 2018 that are still waiting for allocation to an Immigration Officer and, at the end of January 2020, there were some 25,600 people with SMC applications and over 4,100 people with RFW applications in the residence queue. This number of people, in just these two residence categories, is sufficient to almost fill the expected annual Residence Programme from applications already on hand – and yet even more residence applications are being lodged daily.

INZ will have received a high, and increasing, level of enquiries from frustrated and anxious applicants regarding what is happening with their application and, in response, INZ has now published new criteria for which residence applications will prioritised for processing:

  1. SMC applications with job offers, with priority given to applicants:
    a. with a pay rate equivalent to $51.00 per hour or more
    b. who have jobs for which Immigration Instructions require occupational registration
  2. All business categories (Investor & Entrepreneur)
  3. RFW (Talent/ Accredited Employer, Religious Worker, Long Term Skills Shortage), with priority given to applicants:
    a. with a pay rate equivalent to $51.00 per hour or more
    b. who have jobs for which Immigration Instructions require occupational registration

Family category applications also now have particular criteria for being prioritised.

In essence, the now published priority criteria simply puts on paper what has actually been happening in practice over the past six months as INZ has been grappling with how to manage the increased application numbers in the absence of any clear Government directive. We do not see that much will now change in regard to processing times for most applications except for the increased transparency, and the heightened expectations of those applicants who can meet the priority criteria.

It should be appreciated that the updated priority criteria will neither reduce the current backlog nor will it defuse the fundamental tensions in the immigration system. These tensions have yet to fully play out and we see the above changes as, very much, an interim measure while INZ and the Government decide on more long term and definitive solutions to manage residence numbers and application processing.

In the meantime, if you meet the eligibility criteria for a Residence Visa, applying now will at least place your application in the queue for processing. Once in the queue, immigration instructions in effect at the time you submitted your application will continue to apply to that application. This can afford some measure of protection against the yet-to-be-announced changes to immigration policy and the uncertainty and indecision symptomatic of an election year.

If you wish to apply for a Residence Visa and would like to discuss your options, contact Pathways NZ to speak with a licensed immigration adviser.

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.

Last year some 24,000 work visas were approved for a wide range of migrant trades workers. The demand for skilled workers from overseas to fill New Zealand’s skill shortages, and the forthcoming KiwiBuild requirements, is growing. However, while the numbers of work visas is increasing the pathway for these work visa holders to live and work permanently in New Zealand is getting harder. There are challenges ahead for employers to attract and retain their migrant workers.

In the most recent immigration year to June 2018, some 24,000 overseas workers were approved for work visas under the general category of Technicians and Trades Workers. This number is a 6,000, or 33%, increase over the previous year.

While there were 230,000 work visas approved in total during this year, only 4,000 more than in the previous year, some 145,000 of these work visa approvals were not recorded against any particular occupation. These work visas most likely relate to working holiday, graduate student and various partnership categories which all result in the issue of (open) work visas allowing work in any occupation.

Within the Technicians and Trade Workers category the following occupations had most visas issued last year – carpenter/joiner (2850), motor/diesel mechanic (1050), telecommunications technician (850), scaffolder (700), metal fabricator (675), fitter/turner and fitter/welder (650), steel fixer (575), electrician (460), welder (380), mechanical engineering technician (340), plasterer (300), painter (290), panelbeater (270), sheet metal trades worker (220), brick layer (200), plumber (190) and metal machinist (165).

A number of the open work visa holders will also work in the trade sector so the above figures are indicative only. This situation will become more unclear if the current Government proposal to provide graduating international students with 3 year open work visas is implemented, and if work visas issued under the KiwiBuild programme only designate an occupation and not a specific employer (which may happen). In such instances, the holders of these particular work visas will potentially be more transient as their visas will not tie them to any specific employer. The move towards more accommodating work visas is partly promulgated by the Government’s concern with migrant exploitation and wanting migrant workers to be “less obligated” to some employers.

It is interesting to note that only 1,967 Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) residence applications were approved for Technicians and Trade Workers which is less than half the 4,090 approved in the previous year. When compared to the total number of work visas holders, the small number who have successfully transitioned to SMC residence may be surprising given the skilled employment roles these people have. However this reduction is a direct consequence of the changes made by the previous Government in 2017 which introduced an English test requirement and an arbitrary pay threshold (currently $24.29 ph) for SMC residence applicants. Previously SMC applicants could meet the English requirement through being employed in New Zealand for 12 months and there was no mandatory pay threshold. Although it is understood the current Government is “unconvinced” that the pay threshold is an appropriate mechanism for SMC residence, there is no current priority to effect any change in this regard.

These policy changes have seen the total number of SMC residence approvals reduce from 12,106 applications in the previous year to 8,419 last year (representing 17,000 people). The Skilled Migrant Category is the main category within the New Zealand Residence Programme with around 60% of all residence applicants coming from this and the business categories. The Residence Programme is set every two years and in the two year period to 30 June 2018 the programme was set at between 85,000 and 95,000 people. In fact, only 38,000 people were actually approved for residence in the 2017/2018 year, down on the 47,600 people approved the year before.

To meet the SMC English requirement, applicants’ must achieve an IELTS score of 6.5, or the equivalent in one of the other acceptable English tests. This is a high standard given that the same score, in the IELTS academic version, is required for international students to enter into postgraduate study in New Zealand.

Those workers who cannot meet the English requirement are still able, currently, to transition to residence if they hold a work-to-residence work visa under the Long Term Skills Shortage (LTSSL) policy or are working for an Immigration New Zealand accredited employer. These work visas are issued for 30 months and enable the holder to apply for residence after working in a specified role for a designated employer after 24 months. The catch is the pay rate for the accredited employer role must be at least $55,000 pa based on a 40 hour work week ($26.45 ph). The Government is now reviewing the accredited employer policy with the likely outcome that the pay threshold will be significantly increased – potentially to around $70,000 pa ($33.65 ph). If this happens it will mean that this pathway to residence for many skilled trades workers will be lost and the reason for many employers to become INZ accredited will be negated. Given the current Government’s focus on the regions and attracting migrants to work and settle out of Auckland there is a case to be made for the pay threshold applying to work-to-residence applicants under the accredited employer policy to be lower in the regions so that this pathway to residence can still be viable to attract and retain workers – perhaps $70,000 in Auckland and $60,000 out of Auckland?

There is still an option for those workers holding a work visa issued under the LTSSL work-to-residence instructions to later obtain residence as the current pay threshold for this remains at $45,000 pa. However, most of the roles on the LTSSL require applicants to hold qualifications which are assessed as equivalent to particular New Zealand qualifications and this is often not the case, or the process to establish such equivalence is expensive and time consuming. In reality these qualifications can be quite old and of little current relevance and it is the more recent, relevant, work experience which is of primary interest to the New Zealand employer and the basis on which they are generally offered their trade-related work role. It would be helpful if the LTSSL was revised to place greater emphasis on recent work experience rather than on qualifications as this is really what, in most cases, matters to employers.

The accredited employer and the LTSSL work-to-residence policies do not have any English language requirement.

The situation now is that, of the 24,000 people approved for work visas as Technicians and Trades Workers in the past year, together with those previously approved and still holding work visas, the majority are now (or will soon be) unlikely to have any immediate pathway to residence. This situation has implications for those employers with a significant, or key migrant workforce as they will need to carefully consider how this will impact on their ability to attract and retain such migrant employees. It can be an expensive and time-consuming process to firstly identify, and then facilitate workers to travel from across the world to come and work in New Zealand. Many workers will, understandably, only make this commitment if they can have security about their long term future here. If employers cannot provide this long term security, the reality is that their migrant workers may become unsettled and be more easily motivated to move to higher paying employers or leave New Zealand for other work opportunities offshore or back in their home country.

While a number of migrant workers do move between countries for work, many (if not most) will have considered the potential to obtain New Zealand residence as one of factors which influenced their decision to come to New Zealand. For these workers, employers can consider several options to help keep these workers motivated and retain their services for the long(er) term if they do not have a current pathway to residence.

Firstly, there is the option of providing English language assistance and support. This will enable workers to improve their language skills, make any communications more efficient, reduce misunderstanding and mistakes in the workplace, and help develop their self-confidence and social networks. Progressing migrant workers English skills can lead them to achieving the English language requirement to apply for residence under the Skilled Migrant residence category and will genuinely help with their successful integration into New Zealand society.

Secondly, employers can assist and support their workers to achieve recognised New Zealand qualifications. This can enable them to become eligible for Skilled Migrant Category qualification points, which may also open the option for a work-to-residence work visa under LTSSL instructions. Supporting migrant workers to attain New Zealand qualifications can also promote greater employer loyalty and commitment to the employer.

Workers who are accompanied to New Zealand by their family are generally more settled and better placed to manage the transition – although care is needed that any expectation they may have about what is possible for their future in New Zealand is feasible and well founded.

With continuing skills shortages and KiwiBuild on the horizon, New Zealand employers need to be increasingly aware of what motivates their migrant workers to come and stay. Employers would be wise to think about what they can do to secure their services, and commitment, for the long term, ensuring their investment in their migrant workforce is maximised. It is always helpful to begin this process with the benefit of professional advice and assistance on visa matters from an experienced Licenced Immigration Adviser or Immigration Lawyer.

Article provided by Richard Howard, Managing Director of Pathways to New Zealand Ltd – New Zealand’s second largest immigration consultancy business with 13 Licenced Immigration Advisers based in its Hamilton and Wellington Offices.