Skilled Migrant Category Changes Come into Effect (2017)

Just over one month has passed since changes to the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) came into effect, and while many of our clients remain unaffected, for some on the margins, the pathway to residence has become a lot more complicated.

Earlier in the year, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse stated these changes ‘will improve the skill composition of the SMC and ensure we are attracting migrants who bring the most economic benefit to New Zealand…’; it is clear with recourse to the new policy, to whom the Minister was referring.

Whilst the pass mark for residence still sits at 160, significant adjustment to policy reflects government is targeting those with a good deal of work experience and / or higher skills – great if you’re a middle-aged migrant with a qualification and 10 years work experience – not so great if you’re a young graduate with little in the way of work experience to speak of.

The changes include:

  • The introduction of remuneration thresholds as an additional means of defining skilled employment: 
    • Jobs at ANZSCO skill levels 1, 2 and 3 must be paid at or above $23.49 per hour, which equates to a salary of $48,859 per year based on a 40 hour week.
    • Jobs that are not ANZSCO skill level 1, 2 or 3 must be paid at or above $35.24 per hour, which equates to a salary of $73,299 per year based on a 40 hour week.
  • The introduction of bonus points for high remuneration at or above $46.98 per hour.
  • More points available for work experience, but points will only be awarded for work experience that is skilled.
  • Ten points will be awarded for skilled New Zealand work experience of 12 months or more, with no additional points for work experience of two years or more.
  • Points for recognised level 9 or 10 post-graduate qualifications (Master’s degrees and Doctorates) will increase to 70 points.
  • Points for people aged 30 – 39 years will increase to 30 points.
  • Points will only be awarded for partners’ qualifications if the qualifications are either a Bachelor’s level degree or higher, or a post-graduate (level 9 or 10) qualification.
  • Points will no longer be available for: employment, work experience and qualifications in identified future growth areas; points for qualifications in areas of absolute skills shortage or points for close family in New Zealand.

At a glance, these changes appear relatively easy to deal with, however, a closer look reveal changes that will afford immigration officers wide ranging discretion – these are bound to cause issues, given the room for subjectivity.

Skilled Employment

Having an offer of, or current skilled employment allows an applicant to claim points for the role – 50 if the job is within Auckland; 80 if it is outside Auckland.

The adjustments relating to remuneration levels highlighted above, obviously raise the bar. But, there is more to this critical element of the points system that now needs to be considered.

Although an offer of skilled employment is still required to be a ‘substantial match’ to an Australian New Zealand Standard Classification Occupation (ANZSCO), immigration officers are now tasked with going further to determine this. Policy now makes direct reference to an immigration officer looking at the:

scope and scale of the employer’s organisation and operation (the size of the operation, the number of staff and managers, and whether management functions are centralised at a head office or undertaken by other managers).

Therefore, not only will the ‘tasks’ an applicant performs in their role, as measured against ANZSCO be assessed, but also potentially where the role fits within a given industry i.e. what is atypical?

This is bound to cause confusion and some interesting decisions given the wide-ranging nature and size of New Zealand businesses.

Work Experience

Claiming points for work experience has also become complex for several reasons.

Firstly, the work experience claimed must be skilled – a departure from previous policy - work experience being ‘relevant’ was all that was previously required.

Additionally, for any period of work experience claimed, the applicant must have been suitably qualified for that work experience - in line with the ANZSCO definition of what is considered ‘qualified’ for that occupation.

This has the potential to cause much confusion - among applicants and immigration officers alike – given the complex nature of the assessment for both; and the room for interpretation by immigration officers.

These changes herald a sea change in eligibility for residence of many would be migrants – especially those who are younger, with little work experience. It is therefore imperative applicants are well informed prior to spending valuable time and money on a process that has become more complex than it has ever been.

We always suggest applicants take an eligibility assessment prior to starting the immigration process – we offer a free preliminary option; or a detailed assessment for a small fee. If you would like to utilise this service please follow the links below, or if you would like to speak with one of our immigration lawyers, please don’t hesitate to call us.

Eligibility Assessment →

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Contact Tim McSweeney
Phone: (09) 486-2169
Email: tim@turnerhopkins.co.nz

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Published: Mon, Oct 16th, 2017 by Tim McSweeney

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