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New Skills category to drive immigration programme

1 July 2003 Media Statement

New Skills category to drive immigration programme

Skilled migrants to be actively recruited in future

Changes to skilled immigration policy were announced by the government today, following a comprehensive review of the General Skills component of the Skilled/Business stream of the New Zealand Immigration Programme.

In announcing the changes, Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel said they were designed to shift the use of the current General Skills Category (GSC) from one that provides for the passive acceptance of residence applications to one that promotes the active recruitment of the skilled migrants that New Zealand needs.

Two Immigration Act Amendment Bills giving effect to the new policy are being introduced to Parliament this afternoon.

"This is the most significant change in immigration policy in more than a decade. It is designed to meet Growth and Innovation Framework objectives, and to ensure that the Skilled Migrant Category produces a win-win for the migrant and for New Zealand," Lianne Dalziel said.

The new Skilled Migrant Category, to come into effect late 2003/early 2004, will replace the General Skills Category. It will enhance the current points-based system with a new focus on settlement outcomes and meeting New Zealand's needs. The points system introduced in 1991 replaced the occupational priority stream that allowed skilled migrants to gain residence based on meeting New Zealand's identified skill shortages.

"The new Skilled Migrant Category gives us the best of both worlds," Lianne Dalziel said.

Prospective migrants will in future register expressions of interest based on meeting a fixed threshold on the enhanced points system. Health, character and English language requirements will still need to be met prior to registration.

"Bonus points will be introduced to ensure that those who for example, have qualifications and experience matching New Zealand's skill shortages and/or who have relevant job offers in regions outside Auckland, earn the highest points.

"The pool of interested migrants that these expressions of interest will generate will enable us to select applicants with the highest rankings and invite them to apply for residence.

"Once skilled migrants are invited to apply for residence, there will be a reasonably high expectation that the application will lead to residence, either:

- Directly, where there is a demonstrated ability to settle here, or

- Indirectly, through a two year work-to-residence programme where there is no relevant job offer, or history of studying or working successfully in New Zealand.

"This policy is designed to end the "professional-driving-taxi' scenario, which was driven by a policy focussing solely on a migrant gaining residence by meeting the required points, rather than ensuring that their skills and talent could be utilised in New Zealand.

"Settlement outcomes are critical to the success of any country's skilled immigration programme, and New Zealand is no exception. Nothing is more frustrating to a professional migrant than to find that he or she is cannot find work in their area of expertise. Failure to meet this kind of expectation is a key contributor to poor settlement outcomes.

"The new scheme will ensure that skilled migrants can contribute positively to our communities and our economy, through meaningful jobs they are skilled to do.

Lianne Dalziel said she believed the changes would be welcomed by industries and businesses experiencing chronic skill shortages, as well as well-settled ethnic communities, who have seen newer arrivals struggle to achieve their full potential in New Zealand, often due to unrealistic expectations.

"Immigration consultants who have developed or established links with post-arrival settlement programmes will also welcome the changes, as they already operate on a recruitment model. I expect that the only concerns will be raised by other immigration consultants who see their job as done once the residence permit is stamped in the passport," Lianne Dalziel said.

Transitional provisions that involve an Interim General Skills Category, which will require a relevant job offer with all applications, will apply until the new scheme is introduced

In addition the extensive backlog of more than 20,000 applications will be prioritised, and those not meeting the priority criteria will be lapsed. Fees already paid by people whose applications are to be lapsed, will be refunded.

The review of the Investor category within the Skilled/Business Stream is not yet complete, and announcements about that will be made later this year.


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