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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.

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.

Pharmacy Technicians are in demand and is a role that can provide a viable pathway to permanent residence in New Zealand

If you are offered a position of Pharmacy Technician in New Zealand, you may have a bright future to work and live here permanently. The occupation of Pharmacy Technician is included on the Immediate Skill Shortage List which recognises there is current shortage of such skills in New Zealand.

How to become a Pharmacy Technician in New Zealand

To become a Pharmacy Technician and undertake basic dispensary work you need to have a New Zealand Certificate in Pharmacy (Pharmacy Technician (Level 4)) which is the minimum requirement to work in New Zealand as a Pharmacy Technician.

To become a fully qualified pharmacy technician you need to have a New Zealand Certificate in Pharmacy – Pharmacy Technician (Level 5).

You can qualify in one of three ways:

  • Part-time distance study through Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, while you do paid work of at least 20 hours a week in a community or hospital pharmacy as a Pharmacy Assistant or Trainee Pharmacy Technician. To complete a New Zealand Certificate in Pharmacy (Pharmacy Technician) Level 4, you need to complete 115 credits. For each credit, it is about 10 hours of study.
  • Full-time study for around 70 weeks to complete a Certificate in Pharmacy Technician Level 5

Trainee Pharmacy Technicians usually earn $36,000 to $42,000 per year and a qualified Pharmacy Technician can earn from $42,000 to $56,000 per year.

An opportunity for overseas Pharmacy Technician

If you are an overseas qualified and experienced Pharmacy Technician it is possible for you to be accepted to study for the New Zealand Certificate in Pharmacy – Pharmacy Technician (Level 4) course if you are also offered employment as a Trainee Pharmacy Technician or Pharmacy Assistant.

Alternatively you can enrol as an international student in the Level 5 programme and on graduation be entitled to the 12 month open job search work visa to help you in finding a suitable Pharmacy Technician job – with some 88% of graduates are successful in obtaining such employment.

Employment as a Pharmacy Technician on a pay rate of $24.29 per hour or more can be acceptable for a Skilled Migrant Category Residence application if an applicant can also achieve the required SMC points.

Contact a Pathways adviser now for detailed information and a FREE preliminary assessment!

Significant and wide ranging changes to the skilled migrant category (SMC) have been announced and are due to become effective from August.

The NZ Government has announced a range of changes for what it says are “designed to better manage immigration and improve the labour market contribution of temporary and permanent migration.”

Two wage thresholds are being introduced for SMC residence applicants which will be used to determine whether employment is skilled for the purpose of granting points for any employment role. An equally significant change is that points for work experience will be increased but only work experience which is assessed as “skilled” can be relied upon. SMC points for age will increase for applicants aged 30-39 as the Government changes its focus from younger, recently graduated, applicants, to those who have more work experience and who can contribute more quickly and constructively to the workforce. Points will no longer be available for qualifications in areas of absolute skills shortage, future growth areas and for having close family living in New Zealand.

Those who will benefit from these changes include people:

  • Whose jobs are not currently recognised as being skilled and cannot currently rely on these jobs for a SMC residence application. The proposed changes will allow these jobs to be assessed as being skilled if they are paid at or above $73,299 per year (or $35.24 per hour).
  • Whose income is $97,719 per year (or $46.98 per hour) will be eligible for 20 bonus points.
  • Who are aged from 30 to 39 will be awarded 30 points for their age
  • Who have longer work experience and this is experience is in skilled roles
  • Who have recognised higher level qualifications at level 9 or 10 (Master’s degrees or Doctorates) who will be awarded 70 points.

Who will be disadvantaged by the policy changes?

  • People whose jobs are currently considered skilled but who are paid less than $48,859 per year (or $23.49 per hour) will not be able to claim points for skilled employment. This new wage threshold will affect many occupations but particularly Restaurant Managers, Chefs, Retail Managers and ICT Technicians which are the most popular occupations under the current SMC policy.
  • Younger people and recent graduates will be disadvantaged as they will unlikely be able to claim points for skilled work experience

It has yet to be confirmed but it is expected that the proposed changes will be introduced in mid August 2017. The last Expression of Interest (EOI) selection draw may therefore be on the 2nd or the 16th of August. It is our understanding that EOIs selected before the changes are implemented will have their residence applications processed under the current SMC policy. NB: an EOI cannot proceed until the principal applicant has met the English language requirement.

Anyone who is considering a SMC residence application should urgently seek professional advice from a Pathways Licensed Immigration Adviser to determine if they are eligible to apply for residence now and before the proposed policy changes are introduced.