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Migrant level raised to meet skill shortages

Hon David Cunliffe
Minister of Immigration

Migrant level raised to meet skill shortages

More new migrants will be welcomed under the New Zealand Residence Programme during the next 12 months in response to continued skill shortages, Immigration Minister David Cunliffe announced today.

"Up to 52,000 places offered to migrants means more vacancies will be filled," Mr Cunliffe said.

"This will help employers who continue to say skill shortages are a constraint to the growth of their businesses, and will contribute to economic growth."

There will be a minimum of 47,000 and maximum of 52,000 places available for the 2006-07 year. This is the highest number since the 2001-02 year.

"More fundamental changes to the residence programme are being looked at by the government for the 2007-08 financial year," the minister said.

"One option being considered is setting the residence programme in place for several years at a time."

Mr Cunliffe also announced a policy change that means more skilled migrants with work experience in areas of "absolute skill shortage" will gain points towards residence in New Zealand.

Effective from 24 July, work experience in countries considered non-comparable labour markets, such as India and China, will be recognised in areas of absolute skill shortages.

Absolute skill shortages are defined as world-wide shortages that show little sign of easing.

"This includes occupations such as IT professionals, plumbers and engineers, and will mean we don't miss out on these types of highly talented people, no matter where they're from."

Applicants will be required to have recognised qualifications in their area of skill, and meet any registration requirements of their occupation. They will also need to meet standard immigration criteria.


What is the New Zealand Residence Programme?

The New Zealand Residence Programme (NZRP) was previously known as the New Zealand Immigration Programme (NZIP). The name has been changed to more accurately reflect the nature of the programme.

People who wish to migrate permanently to New Zealand must apply under one of the programme's three residence streams: Skilled/Business, Family Sponsored, or International/Humanitarian.

Each stream is allocated a percentage of the total number of residence places each year. The Skilled/Business Stream approvals account for 60 per cent, Family Sponsored 30 per cent and International/ Humanitarian 10 per cent.

Within those streams are a number of avenues to residence. The main path to residence in the Skilled/Business stream is the Skilled Migrant Category – designed to ensure a match between the skills migrants bring and the skills New Zealand needs.

The Family Sponsored stream allows migrants in a variety of close relationships with New Zealand citizens or residents to qualify for residence. This includes sponsorship of partners and children, and in some cases, siblings and parents.

The International/Humanitarian stream includes the Refugee Quota, the Samoan Quota, the Pacific Access Category, the Refugee Family Quota, successful refugee status claimants, and a number of small discretionary categories.

Cabinet sets the desired level of residence approvals under the New Zealand Residence Programme each year.
For 2006/07 Cabinet has agreed to the following places:

Stream Minimum number of people to be approved Maximum number of people to be approved
Skilled/Business 28,200 (60%) 31,000
Family/Sponsored 14,100 (30%) 15,000
International/Humanitarian 4,700 (10%) 6,000
Total 47,000 52,000

How many migrants were approved under the 2005/06 programme?

The number of migrants approved under last year's residence programme will be announced by the Minister once end of year figures are available.

Last year the government set the residence programme at 45,000, with 5,000 additional places available if needed. In December, the government increased this target to 51,500 – in response to high demand for places from migrants and continued skills shortage pressure on employers.

What is a comparable labour market?

A comparable labour market is one considered closely matched to New Zealand's labour market.
Several factors are taken into account when the Department of Labour defines a comparable market. These include:

· the employment laws, working conditions and remuneration arrangements of the market concerned.
· the structure of the economy in the market.
· the experiences of migrants from the same market in New Zealand – how successful they have been finding jobs and settling in the country

A number of nation's labour markets are considered to comparable to New Zealand's (see list below).

Applicants from these nations are able to claim points for work experience in their application for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category.
What has changed?

The comparable labour market policy remains in place. However, the policy change will mean more applicants from non-comparable countries will have their work experience recognised.

Before today's policy change, applicants with work experience in non-comparable markets could only claim points if they gained this experience in a multinational company or if they had a job offer from a New Zealand employer.

The policy change announced today means that applicants from non-comparable labour markets may also claim points for their work experience if their skills are critically needed in New Zealand.

Their skills must be in an occupation listed in the 'Long Term Skills Shortages List'. This list is complied by the Department of Labour in consultation with other government agencies and employment and union groups.

The list includes occupations considered to have a sustained and absolute shortage of labour.

In order to claims points, these applicants must also meet the qualification requirements of their occupation – in addition to standard immigration criteria.

Why is the comparable labour market policy required?

In 2003 the Labour-led government made some changes to the way skilled people could qualify for residence in New Zealand. These changes were made to ensure migrants coming to New Zealand were able to settle as successfully as possible –in the country's workforce and communities.

As part of these changes, the comparable labour market policy was introduced. The policy is designed to make sure that a migrant's skills and experience closely match New Zealand's labour needs.
A person who has experience in a market similar to New Zealand's will find it easier to find a job and settle successfully.

What countries are considered comparable?

Australia Malaysia
Austria New Zealand
Belgium-Luxembourg Netherlands
Canada Norway
Cyprus Philippines
Denmark Portugal
Finland Republic of South Korea
France Singapore
Germany South Africa
Greece Spain
Iceland Sweden
Ireland Switzerland
Israel United Kingdom
Italy United States


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