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Changes to help migrants settle in NZ

19 November 2002 Media Statement

Changes to help migrants settle in NZ

The government today announced changes to the rules governing General Skills and Business categories for migrants.

Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel said the changes were designed to improve employability and settlement prospects.

“All the evidence shows that migrants are able to settle far more successfully in New Zealand if they can communicate well in English.

"Therefore from midnight tonight, the level of English required for General Skills applicants will be an average score of 6.5 under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The current level is five.

"The level for Business applicants will increase from four to five. The level for secondary applicants will be standardised at five, and for the first time an English language test will apply to Long Term Business Visa applicants, also at IELTS level 5.

"IELTS is an internationally recognised English testing system that assesses people across the four skill areas of listening, reading, writing and speaking ability," Lianne Dalziel said.

The increase in language requirements aligns immigration standards more closely to those of tertiary institutions, professional registration bodies, and employers looking for skilled migrants.

The Minister said the increase in language requirements had also been included in changes to the Job Search Visa criteria. Applicants will now need an average score of 6.5 as well as having qualifications required for occupations on the New Zealand Immigration Service’s (NZIS) Occupational Shortages List.

"A number of minor changes have also been introduced to tighten up the Business categories in the wake of the Evaluation of the 1999 Business Immigration Policy. A full review of the Business categories will continue, and decisions will be taken next year.

"From tomorrow all Business category applicants will have to agree to participate in any evaluations of the policies, and Long Term Business Visas will be targeted to those whose businesses benefit New Zealand, in line with the Entrepreneur category.

"Another significant loophole highlighted by the Evaluation was the ability of a long-term business permit holder to change the business plan without reference back to the NZIS. This will cease as of midnight tonight," Lianne Dalziel said.

"Raising the English language standards will also help ensure migrants have a more realistic expectation of the level of English which is required for employment in New Zealand.

"It is unfair for people to be able to come here believing their English skills equip them fully for life in New Zealand, and then find that they cannot communicate well enough to get a good job.

"We want migrants to be able to make a positive contribution to New Zealand both economically and socially, and we want them to be welcomed by their local communities. Those aims are hard to achieve when language problems create barriers."

Lianne Dalziel said the importance of continually reviewing immigration policy had been highlighted in the 'New Zealand Talent Initiative' report prepared by LEK Consulting late last year for the Prime Minister's steering committee of Ministers and business leaders, as part of the development of the Growth and Innovation framework.

Lianne Dalziel said today’s initiatives were steps in a strategic direction that this government has taken to focus immigration policy on skills and successful settlement, and follows:
- The establishment of migrant settlement pilot programmes in 2000
- The introduction of the New Zealand Immigration Programme in 2001, with its emphasis on attracting skilled migrants
- The introduction of the Talent Visa as part of the Work to Residence programme in April this year.


ENDS

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