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Immigration Announcement: Questions & Answers

Skilled Immigration Policy Announcement

Questions and Answers


What is the government announcing today?

Following the review of the General Skills Category (GSC) of the Skilled/Business Stream the government has announced that a new Skilled Migrant Category will replace the GSC. This change gives effect to the policy direction signalled last year, to shift New Zealand from being merely a passive recipient of residence applications, to becoming an active recruiter of the skills and talent New Zealand needs. By focussing on settlement outcomes for the skilled migrant, as well as New Zealand's actual needs, the Skilled Migrant Category represents a win-win for migrants and New Zealand.

Under the changes, prospective migrants will be able to register expressions of interest, and only those who are invited to apply for residence, will be able to lodge a formal application for residence.

An Interim General Skills Category (IGSC), which will require a relevant job offer to be accepted, will apply until the new category is established. This is to ensure that New Zealand does not miss out on any potential skilled migrants, with much to offer New Zealand, and who are likely to do well here in the period leading up to the establishment of the new category.

The existing backlog of applicants will be prioritised against the same criteria, and those that do not meet the priority will have their applications lapsed and fees refunded. Although there will be some applicants who will be disappointed, it is neither fair to them nor to New Zealand, to continue processing so many applications that are unlikely to produce any benefit for the potential migrant nor for New Zealand.

Why is the GSC being replaced by the Skilled Migrant Category?

This decision has arisen as part of the ongoing, systematic review of immigration policy that commenced immediately after the 1999 general election. Significant changes that have been introduced since then are:

1 2000/01 Introduction of settlement pilot programmes

2 1 October 2001 NZ Immigration Programme (60% Skilled/Business Stream)

3 February 2002 GSC points adjusted to favour job offers relevant to qualifications or experience

4 May 2002 Regional Immigration Initiative - pilots established in Clutha/Southland and Wellington region

5 April 2002 Work-to-Residence programme, including the Talent Visa and Occupational Priority Skill Shortage Work Visa, providing two year work permits followed by residence

6 November 2002 new English language requirements

The whole approach has been based on shifting the focus from the numbers entering the country, to ensuring that those who do come here settle well.

What did the LEK Report say about skilled immigration to New Zealand?

The LEK report said that New Zealand had to think of the GSC as the opportunity to "Talent Hunt' for the migrants who would contribute to the wealth of the nation. It suggested that New Zealand should select those migrants with the best prospects of matching employment opportunities and settling in New Zealand.

"Improving the integration of migrants allows them to create value for New Zealand sooner and is likely to result in higher levels of personal satisfaction amongst migrants. This encourages positive messages about New Zealand to be sent to family and friends, thereby further increasing the attractiveness of New Zealand as a destination amongst the target audience."

The LEK report identified some key concerns:

- Less than half of migrants surveyed believed that New Zealand had done well in meeting their career expectations.

- New Zealand offered limited services to assist migrants settle into society.

- New Zealand placed less emphasis on English language skills than countries such as Canada and Australia, and did not offer the same level of language training on arrival.

- Migrants became frustrated when they could not find work due to a lack of English, inappropriate work experience or non-transferable qualifications.

LEK concluded that New Zealand should invite talented people with the skills the country needed to apply for residence, rather than merely accepting applications from people who for all the above reasons are unlikely to do well here. Once we got the policy right, the LEK report suggested that we significantly increase the number of skilled migrants coming to New Zealand. The government's response has been to explore how we shift from passively receiving applications for residence to actively recruiting the skilled migrants that New Zealand needs and we know will settle well and quickly.

New Zealand Talent Initiative: Strategies for Building a Talented Nation.

For more information go to

When will the new Skilled Migrant Category come into effect?

The Skilled Migrant Category takes effect either late in 2003 or early 2004.

Will the invitation to apply system apply to all residence categories?

The "invitation to apply" has been designed specifically for the review of the Skilled Immigration Policy.

When will the Business Migrant categories review be completed?

The Investor Category component within of the Skilled/Business stream has also been the subject of a review. Decisions are planned by the end of August, and it is hoped to align those changes with the introduction of the Skilled Migrant Category if practicable.

Why was no advance notice given of these latest changes to the GSC policy?

Typically, when any notice is given of a change to any immigration policy rules, NZIS branch offices experience large surges of applications from potential migrants wanting to get applications assessed under the old rules. This puts pressure on the immigration programme numbers and substantially delays the impact of policy changes.

Won't this new two-tier system just make NZ more difficult to get into?

The whole point of this policy is that New Zealand gets to invite the people it needs, who will contribute and settle here most effectively. Although there is a new pre-cursor to the application process, because we are "inviting' people to apply, we will be considering only the number of applications provided for in the NZ Immigration Programme, so we expect the approvals process to be quicker than it is now.

If you get bonus points for moving to a region what's stopping a migrant from leaving and moving to Auckland almost immediately?

There are no guarantees - but people who migrate to New Zealand are making a significant effort to set up a new life and job, find a home, bring their families and settle their children in schools. It is unlikely that once a skilled migrant has settled into a good job that they would move to another location unless they had an equivalent job to go to.

Do you expect that this new policy will change the balance of the NZ Immigration Programme?

As the GSC passmark has increased to reflect increasing numbers of applications, it has become more difficult for tradespersons to gain residence. It is important that the Skilled Migrant Category produces the range of skills and talent New Zealand needs, and the new system will achieve that.

How confident is the government that it will attract talented people in sufficient numbers to make a difference to the economy?

We currently have enough GSC applications to fill the Skilled /Business Stream of the NZ Immigration Programme for the next two years. From experience, we know that many of them would not be successful here, which is why we are both prioritising and lapsing the existing backlog of applications. It is not the numbers that count; it's the quality of the settlement outcomes that matter. Money has been set aside in this year's Budget to actively recruit migrants to meet New Zealand's needs.

Wasn't the Talent Visa designed to address the needs of industry?

Talent Visas will remain a key part of the government's strategy to attract talented people to work here. As a fast-track work permit, employers have used the "work-to-residence' point of difference to attract talented people to work here. It's been very successful. There are already over 540 skilled migrants who have been approved for Talent and other Work-to-Residence visas and permits. The new Skilled Migrant Category will also contain a two-year work-to-residence programme to manage risk around those without demonstrated settlement ability.

Is the government shifting the goal posts?

No. The government has established the New Zealand Immigration Programme to provide a level of certainty about migration levels from year to year. The number of places in the immigration programme remains at 45,000, with 60% of the programme set aside for skilled migrants. The figure of 45,000 will be used as the indicative basis for the next three years, committing New Zealand to an active immigration programme.

Is this new legislation going to impact on our export education market?

This new policy should have a positive impact on the education market. People who already in New Zealand, or who have a New Zealand tertiary qualification, are more likely to get a relevant offer of employment which makes them more likely to be among those invited to apply for residence.

How will Global prioritisation benefit New Zealand?

People already in New Zealand on work permits with a skilled job will receive preferential processing and therefore will have their residence application decided more quickly.


What has changed in the General Skills Category (GSC) to cover the interim period leading to the introduction of the new Skilled Migrant Category?

From 2 July 2003, applicants for residence in New Zealand under the IGSC, in addition to meeting the IGSC passmark, must have an offer of full time employment from a New Zealand employer. The employment offer must be relevant either to the qualification or work experience for which they are claiming points. Job Search Visas and Permits will not be available to applicants who apply from 2 July, and points will no longer be awarded for non-relevant job offers.

Why has the interim policy been introduced?

Restricting approval under the IGSC to applicants with job offers will help manage the high numbers of people seeking residence in New Zealand and, at the same time, ensure that New Zealand does not miss out on the opportunity to grant residence to qualified and experienced migrants who have a genuine, skilled job to come to.

Who will be affected by the changes to the GSC policy?

Applicants who lodge IGSC applications from 2 July 2003.

What proportion of GSC applicants currently have relevant job offers?

In the past year, 57% of GSC migrants have had relevant job offers. Many of them are already in New Zealand on work permits or come to New Zealand to look for work before they apply. They will still be able to do this

Has anything changed for secondary applicants (spouses or partners and dependent children) included in GSC applications?


Will the passmark be changing again this year?

The GSC passmark is currently set at 29 points. The Minister reviews the passmark every month, however, it is unlikely to change during the interim period prior to the introduction of the new Skilled Migrant Category.

Can I lodge a IGSC application now, and submit a job offer later?

No. You will have to provide the relevant job offer when you lodge your IGSC application. If your application does not include a New Zealand job offer it will not meet the mandatory requirements for lodgement and may be returned with your application fee.

What if I have already sent my application form and documents to the NZIS, but I don't meet the new rules?

If your application was received by the NZIS before 2 July 2003 and has all the necessary evidence or documents required by the application form, it will be accepted and considered under the GSC policy criteria which applied before 2 July 2003. If your application was received after 2 July 2003, it will be considered under the IGSC policy. If it does not contain an offer of employment it will not meet the mandatory requirements for lodgement and will be returned to you with your fee.

Transitional and lapsing provisions - the different potential routes for skilled applicants, depending on their date of application

General Skills Category applicants - applied before 20 November 2002

General Skills Category applicants - applied between 20 November 2002 and 1 July 2003

Interim General Skills Category applicants - apply from 2 July 2003

New Skilled Migrant Category applicants - apply from introduction of new policy


Why is the government prioritising and lapsing certain existing applications?

A considerable backlog of GSC applications has developed over the past two years. The size of the backlog means that if all these applications were processed in date order the new Skilled Migrant Category would not be effective for two years.

Many of the applications in the backlog are not of the standard that will be required under the new Skilled Migrant Category, and also would not meet the current GSC passmark. At the same time, however, there are applications within the backlog that do meet this higher standard. It has therefore been decided that certain applications will be processed and decided, and the remainder will be lapsed.

Which GSC applications will be given priority?

GSC applications that will be given priority are those where principal applicants have job offers relevant to their qualifications or experience, and those claiming 29 points or more.

Which GSC applications will be lapsed?

All GSC applications made before 20 November 2002 and not decided by 1 July 2003 will be lapsed, except where the principal applicant had:

- claimed points for a relevant offer of employment in New Zealand, or

- claimed 28 or more points, or

- already been issued a "Job Search' Visa or Permit, or been invited to apply for one, or

- been determined by the NZIS to meet the requirements for approval, or

- been determined by the NZIS to meet the requirements for approval in principle.

What are the chances that New Zealand will miss out on the skills we need by lapsing some applications?

People with high skills and qualifications and good settlement factors such as a relevant job offer will not be lapsed. Those being lapsed are those least likely to make the contribution New Zealand needs.

People who do have their applications lapsed will have their application fees refunded and will be able to reapply under the new IGSC if they meet the requirements. Or they can choose to wait until the new Skilled Migrant Category comes into effect, after which they can register an expression of interest.

Are we just cleaning the slate so that we can start a queue again?

No - because in the future we will be inviting only those we want to apply for residence. We will manage the number of applications on hand so there is no danger of exceeding the places available in the NZ Immigration Programme. Registered expressions of interest will lapse on a regular basis, so that the pool does not become a queue.

Why do you need legislation to change this? Why not just give more marks in the GSC for a job offer?

No matter how we adjust the points in the GSC, the current system means that we will always be passive receivers of migrants. We want to be active recruiters of the people we need, who can contribute most successfully to our economic and social development, and whom we know from experience will do well here. Under the current system many people who cannot meet New Zealand's needs, take the place of those who can.

How many cases are likely to be affected by the lapsing provisions?

There are currently about 20,000 GSC applications awaiting decisions by the NZIS. Of these, in early June, 14,669 applications were received prior to 20 November 2002.

Many of these applications will not be lapsed - as they will meet the criteria to be considered in the interim period. The exact number of applications that meet the criteria will not be known until NZIS assesses each application against the lapsing criteria.

What stage are these applications at - are any at the decision stage?

Some of the applications received prior to 20 November 2002 could be at the decision stage. For most applicants at this stage, the applicant (or their agent) will know a decision has been made, as they will have received a letter from NZIS advising that their application has been approved in principle. This letter outlines that an approval decision has been made, and that to confirm this they now need to meet certain requirements, such as paying the migrant levy and the settlement information fee. Some applicants may be at the point where a decision has been made and NZIS has not yet communicated this to the applicant. In neither of these scenarios will applications be lapsed.

The majority of the applications expected to be lapsed have only been checked to ensure they meet lodgement requirements (the legal requirements for applications to be accepted), the fee receipted, and the receipt of the application acknowledged by NZIS.

Can I submit more information, or a job offer, to prevent my application being lapsed?

Any information or documents submitted to the NZIS after 1 July 2003 cannot be taken into consideration if your application has been lapsed. However, if your application is lapsed, and you decide to lodge a new application under the IGSC in effect from 2 July 2003, the NZIS will accept your previously submitted Police Clearances, and Medicals and X-ray certificates if your new application is lodged within 3 months of the letter advising that your original application has been lapsed.

If my application is lapsed will my fee be refunded?

If your application is lapsed your full application fee will be refunded. However, you will not be reimbursed for any other personal expenses you may have incurred during the preparation of your application, such as medicals, police clearances, NZQA assessments.

Can I apply again for residence if my application is lapsed?

Yes you can apply under the IGSC rules, which come into from 2 July 2003, or you can choose to register an expression of interest under the new Skilled Migrant Category when this comes into effect.

What if I want to withdraw my application?

If you want to withdraw your application you should contact the NZIS office processing your application for advice, however your application fee will not be refunded.

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