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Government To Increase Skilled Migrant Numbers

The Government aims to increase the annual number of skilled and business migrants approved to enter New Zealand to a total of around 27,000 a year, Prime Minister Helen Clark and Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel announced today.

The new target represents a 60 per cent increase on the 1999-2000 figure of 17,000 skilled and business migrants coming to New Zealand. The new target will take effect from 1 July 2001.

Helen Clark and Lianne Dalziel said that the new target was aimed at ensuring that the New Zealand economy has the skills and entrepreneurial base it needs to develop high value industries and services in the 21st century.

Speaking at the Business-Government Forum in Christchurch, Helen Clark and Lianne Dalziel announced other changes to immigration policy which will help business attract skilled employees.

"When the Government held its first business-government forum in Auckland last year, many of the participants said that several aspects of immigration policy posed barriers to New Zealand attracting highly skilled workers from overseas.

"The government is now moving to ensure that immigration policy is responsive to business needs and facilitates economic and business growth," Helen Clark said.

Helen Clark and Lianne Dalziel also announced that the government :
* Has agreed to grant open work permits to spouses and partners of work permit holders from April 2001 to enable them to contribute to household income and help them to integrate in New Zealand during their stay.
* Has begun piloting a process of identifying occupation shortages in lieu of individual labour market tests. This is a practical initiative which will simplify the process of applying for work permits and speed up the decision-making time on work permit applications.
* Has adjusted the English Language Testing system requirement from a minimum score of 5 in each skill band, to an average of 5 across the bands. This will make New Zealand a more attractive destination for migrants who are less fluent in New Zealand, but have other attributes, such as occupational skills. This takes effect from July 2001, but in addition, people scoring below 7 in the test will be encouraged to purchase additional English as a Second Language tuition.

Lianne Dalziel said the Government was also working on other immigration policy initiatives to introduce a linkage between work permit and residence policy; allowing for flexibility in considering residence applications that failed precise category requirements; undertaking a review of fees; and facilitating the entry of knowledge workers such as people in the telecommunications industries.

"I will also be exploring the feasibility of establishing a skills matching system to help prospective migrants obtain job offers in New Zealand and considering immigration policy specific to regions," Lianne Dalziel said.

"I have already received positive support from local government agencies wanting to explore options for the regions and I look forward to talking with local authorities about the idea over the coming months."

Lianne Dalziel said that the government recognised the importance of good communication of information about immigration policy and services to business, and aims to make improvements in this area.

(Prime Minister) Mike Munro 021-428 835
(Immigration Minister) Juli Clausen +64 4 471 9099 or 021 70 70 45
Closing Skills Gaps in a Global Market Through Immigration Initiatives

The government is announcing today that it has

* Agreed to increase the number of skilled and business migrants (details still being worked on but likely to be in the vicinity of an additional 10,000 skilled migrants each year)
* Agreed to grant open work permits to spouses of work permit holders
* Commenced piloting a process of identifying occupational shortages in lieu of individual labour market tests
* Adjusted the English Language Testing System requirement from a minimum score of 5 in each of the four skill bands, to an average of 5, from July 2001, but will encourage people scoring below 7 to purchase additional ESOL tuition after arrival
* Agreed to develop a strategy to improve business understanding of immigration policy and services.

The government plans to

* Formalise a Memorandum of Understanding between NZIS and NZQA
* Introduce an explicit linkage between work permit and residence policy
* Introduce flexibility with a set of principles against which applications, that do not meet the precise category requirements, can be tested
* Review fees charged for applications
* Facilitate the entry of knowledge workers such as people in the telecommunications industries
* Explore the feasibility of establishing a skills matching system to help prospective migrants obtain job offers in New Zealand
* Consider regional immigration options.

The government has

* Improved the eligibility criteria for indefinite Returning Residents Visas
* Announced pilot settlement services for recent migrants ($500,000)
* Increased the range of qualifications assessed under the General Skills category to include vocational and trade training, and introduced a List of Recognised Qualifications which do not need NZQA assessment
* Undertaken research projects, including the links between temporary entrants and residence applications; and how immigration can contribute to filling skill shortages in the knowledge-based industries
* Completed a first principles review of the family sponsored categories
* Allowed spouses of long term business migrants to be granted open work permits and visas
* Doubled the Working Holiday Visa scheme to 20,000 places
* Consulted on Options for Setting Enforceable Standards for Immigration Consultants
* Launched an improved Business Migration Liaison Unit Website
* Announced a visa-waiver for Mexico under the Latin American Strategy
* Set up a Ministerial Advisory Group on Immigration and Settlement policy.

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