Changes could make residence through Skilled Migrant Category more difficult
14 Oct 16
IMPACT – HIGH
What is the change? New Zealand has announced changes that will make it more difficult to obtain residence through the Skilled Migrant Category.
What does the change mean? Effective immediately, applicants automatically considered for an invitation to apply for residence in the Skilled Migrant Category must have a score of 160 (up from 140) in a points-based system that considers work experience, qualifications, education, age, family in New Zealand and whether the applicant has skilled employment, or a skilled employment job offer, in New Zealand. Having a New Zealand job offer will no longer have an impact on an applicant’s expression of interest. English-language requirements have also become more stringent, and applicants who have worked for 12 months in New Zealand will not automatically satisfy the language requirement.
- Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing.
- Visas/permits affected: Skilled Migrant Category resident visas.
- Who is affected: Foreign nationals applying for residence through the Skilled Migrant Category.
- Impact on processing times: No significant impact is expected. The process of obtaining residence through the Skilled Migrant Category takes roughly 12 months from beginning to end.
- Business impact: The changes will make it more difficult to obtain residence, including for some applicants who have, or have been offered, skilled employment in New Zealand.
Background: The Skilled Migrant Category is the category that is most used to obtain residence in New Zealand, and Immigration New Zealand said the changes are necessary to help stay within migration target levels.
Applicants in the Skilled Migrant Category must first submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) to INZ, claiming points based on the factors described above. Before 12 October, EOIs with 140 points were automatically selected from the pool and considered for an invitation to apply. Further to this, all EOIs with between 100 and 139 points and a New Zealand job offer would form part of the pool that could be considered for an invitation to apply for residence. Now, EOIs with more than 100 points – and the requisite health, character, age and English-language requirements – will be entered into a pool from which invitations to apply are issued, but only EOIs with 160 or more points will automatically be invited to apply for residence. The 160-point automatic threshold will apply even for applicants with a job offer.
Immigration New Zealand said the changes may not be permanent, but are necessary for now. The 160-point threshold, INZ said, “may be adjusted as necessary to manage the achievement of the overall New Zealand Residence Programme.”
INZ has also changed the way applicants can show that they meet minimum English standards, including doing away with an automatic exemption for applicants who have worked for 12 months in New Zealand. Exemptions will exist for (1) citizens of Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom or the United States who have worked or gone to school for five or more years in one or more of those countries or Australia or New Zealand; (2) applicants who hold a recognised qualification that is comparable to a New Zealand level 7 bachelor’s degree gained in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom or the United States as a result of study in one or more of those countries for at least two years; or (3) applicants who hold a recognised qualification that is comparable to a New Zealand level 8 gained in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom or the United States as a result of study in one or more of those countries for at least one year.
Applicants who were previously exempt and do not meet one of the above exemptions will have to complete an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam and score at least 6.5.
BAL Analysis: The changes will make it more difficult to obtain New Zealand residence through the Skilled Migrant Category. While the changes took immediate effect, authorities did establish transitional measures for applicants who have already been invited to apply for residence. Those with questions about specific cases should contact BAL for assistance.
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