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Way Opened For Employers To Tap Global Talent

3 December 2001

The government is to make it easier for New Zealand employers to attract highly skilled and talented people from overseas to help boost New Zealand’s economic development.

Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel today announced immigration initiatives aimed at making New Zealand more competitive globally with the ability to capitalise on positive wealth-creating opportunities that presented themselves.

“This is about making it easier for New Zealand employers to access the global talent pool quickly before they go elsewhere. All New Zealanders benefit from the skills and talent these people will bring with them,” Lianne Dalziel said.

Talent Visa
Under the initiatives announced today, a Talent Visa is to be introduced that would see accredited employers able to recruit highly talented and skilled individuals to boost their access to global skills and knowledge.

The Talent Visa will particularly benefit those employers in the innovation and enterprise sectors who employ significant numbers of skilled overseas workers and who would benefit from being able to tap into global talent as the opportunity arises.

The Talent Visa will allow successful applicants to work for an accredited employer in New Zealand for two years.“

Applications to be an accredited employer under the Talent Visa policy will be considered on a case by case basis by a dedicated, specialist unit within the New Zealand Immigration Service. Once accredited, employers will then be able to recruit talented individuals as the need and opportunity arises,” Lianne Dalziel said.

Talent Visa holders will be eligible for permanent residence after a two-year temporary residence period provided they have met the conditions of their visa and they have an offer of on-going employment.

Applicants for a Talent Visa will need to have a suitable offer of employment from an accredited employer and meet standard health and character requirements. Family members of Talent Visa holders will have the same entitlements as family members of work permit holders.

Talent Visa details are still being finalised but will be announced in March 2002 with a view to implementation in April 2002.

Skill Shortage Work Permit
Lianne Dalziel said a proposed Skill Shortage Work Permit would complement the proposed Talent Visa scheme.

Under the scheme, employers who have a specific job vacancy for an occupation recognised by NZIS as having a skill shortage will be able to recruit someone from overseas to fill that position.

The vacancy must be for an occupation on the new NZIS Labour Market Skill Shortages List. This List will be reviewed and enhanced in conjunction with unions and employer groups. Where an acknowledged shortage exists, employers will no longer need to go through the standard labour market test to prove that no New Zealander is available to fill the position.

“Where an occupation is not on the NZIS’ Labour Market Skill Shortage List, a labour market test will still need to be conducted to ensure there are no suitably qualified New Zealanders to do the job. However we are also looking at ways to streamline the test to reduce the compliance cost to employers,” Lianne Dalziel said.

A Skill Shortage Work Permit will be issued for up to two years and in some circumstances it will allow permit holders a pathway to permanent residence.

“The details of the Skill Shortage Work Permit policy, such as criteria for residence and which occupations will be on the NZIS Labour Market Shortages List, are still being finalised and will be announced in March 2002 with a view to implementation in April 2002”, Lianne Dalziel said.

“Talented and skilled people have the potential to lift the skills level of the New Zealand labour market as a whole by sharing their knowledge, expertise and talent with other New Zealanders and by contributing to successful enterprises.

“Today’s immigration policy announcements demonstrate the government’s commitment to increasing our capacity as a nation to compete successfully in the modern global economy. By supporting New Zealand’s growing enterprise and innovation sector with policies that will help them attract high-calibre individuals by cutting red-tape we will help boost New Zealand’s economy as a whole,” Lianne Dalziel said.

Questions and Answers
Announcement of the Talent Visa and Skill Shortage Policy
3 December 2001

Q. Why introduce new policies, what’s wrong with managing talent through the General Skills Category points system?
The General Skills Category is about attracting talented people here as migrants. The focus of the Talent Visa is to attract people who may not have necessarily decided that they want to live here permanently but who would prefer a guarantee of residence should they decide they want to stay. The Talent Visa provides a direct link to residence provided they have ongoing employment and meet the health and character requirements of normal policy.

Q. Does the introduction of these new policies mean that the pre-existing immigration policy was outdated?
The New Zealand Immigration Programme which took effect from 1 October 2001, was established in the knowledge that these arrangements were to be introduced early next year. The Talent Visa fits very well in the context of the Programme. New Zealand faces increasing competition in the global marketplace and to be successful we need to be flexible. We need to have a range of policies that are tailored to meet the diverse and changing needs of the global economy and labour market. The Talent Visa and the Skill Shortage Policy do just that.

Q. What’s the difference between the Talent Visa policy initiatives and the Skill Shortage scheme?
The Talent Visa policy is about attracting talented people to New Zealand - the kind of people who will make a difference because they bring highly sought after skills and, more importantly, have been selected by employers who are willing to offer them high-level employment.
The Skill Shortage policy is about helping employers speed up the process of filling specific short-term job vacancies where those vacancies are for occupations where acknowledged skills shortages exist.

Q. Why do employers need to be accredited to access the Talent Visa?
Ultimately government has to be accountable for its policies. If we are going to attract talent to New Zealand we need to ensure that we gain a reputation for offering a stable working environment. We want to ensure that employers who are accredited to attract Talent Visa holders are able to provide a working environment that can support these individuals in the medium term. That means we need to ensure that employers with Talent Visa holders on their teams have the resources to provide them with employment and support while they are here. We also want New Zealand to have a reputation as the kind of place where talented people want to live and work.

Q. Won’t these policies ensure employers simply by-pass New Zealanders in favour of cheaper overseas workers?
The Talent Visa policy is about attracting highly skilled people. There will be a minimum salary attached to this policy to ensure that it cannot be used to bring in cheap labour. It is proposed that suitable job offers must have a minimum base salary of NZ$45,000 per annum. Recruiting overseas is usually costly and research clearly shows that New Zealand employers will, in general, recruit from within New Zealand first. As far as the Skill Shortage policy is concerned, this policy is to help employers recruit in occupations where there are no New Zealanders available. One major change to current Work Policy is that there is now a route to residence, where a person is filling an absolute skills shortage.

Q. Won’t these policies act as a disincentive for New Zealand employers to provide staff/employee training?
No. A commitment to training will be expected of accredited employers. We would also expect that New Zealand staff would benefit from their knowledge and skills by working alongside Talent Visa holders.

Q. With the Talent Visa are you creating a new residence category?
In essence that is true, but it is in fact a Work Permit that is initially granted. After two years the visa holder will be able to apply for residence. Highly talented people are the people we want to attract to New Zealand as residents and as long as they meet the basic residence criteria of health and character, and in this case, an ongoing offer of employment, they will be welcome to stay.

Q. What age does the Talent Visa cut out?
It cuts out at age 55 just as the General Skills Category cuts out at age 55.

Q. What sort of numbers is the government expecting to attract through the Talent Visa?
It is difficult to predict. The number of Talent Visa applications, for example, will be largely dependent on the number of employers applying for accreditation. I expect that we will be able to attract enough talent to boost the performances of our enterprise and innovation sectors. What is good about the Talent Visa is that each year, the NZIS will know precisely how many people could apply for residence as a result of holding the Visa because of the a two-year lead-in time to residence.

Q. What does an employer have to do to be accredited?
The detail of accreditation is being developed. I expect to be announcing the policy details in March next year. However, the proposals include considering matters such as the company’s trade record in business, employment and industry training.

Q. What types of employer does the government have in mind who would become accredited employers?
The accreditation process will be designed to facilitate the entry of talent across a wide range of sectors. The policy is targeting the high innovation and enterprise sectors, but other sectors could benefit too.

Q. Do other countries have these types of policy?
Singapore has an equivalent pathway to residence in operation that works very well. Britain is looking to introduce similar measures.

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