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Key Visa Categories Reopened To Support Business Attract Top Talent

Hon Michael Wood

Minister of Immigration

· Skilled Migrant Category to re-open under current settings while consultation begins on proposed uncapped, simplified points system

· Parent category to reopen with expression of interest selections resuming from mid-November

The Government has announced the next steps in our plan to reconnect New Zealanders to the world and fill workforce shortages, with the resuming of selections for two residence visa categories visas that will help Kiwi businesses attract talent during the global worker shortage.

Immigration Minister Michael Wood announced the changes at a speech today to business and migrant community leaders in Auckland.

“As the world recovers from COVID-19, labour shortages continue to be a global symptom,” Michael Wood said.

“We are listening closely to the concerns of businesses, many of whom have approval to hire migrants but are finding it difficult to recruit internationally in a constrained labour market. Today’s changes work in tandem with the immigration changes already made and will help further relieve labour shortages, and ensure an competitive edge to attract talent to New Zealand.

“We are resuming the Skilled Migrant Category under the current settings to help attract more workers. The first selection will be at 160 points, and subsequent selections at an increased threshold of 180 points, to better align with the future direction of the category and our rebalance goals.

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“Over 12,000 international migrants have applied for 511 different occupations across New Zealand since the Accredited Employer Work Visa opened. The Skilled Migrant Category provides a pathway for retaining the majority of these much needed skills in New Zealand permanently, strengthening our nation’s resilience to global shocks and economic security into the future.

“Getting the long term settings of the category right is important for New Zealand’s future economic security, and ensuring that we can attract and retain high skilled talent. At the same time as resuming selections, we are commencing consultation on a proposed new system that will future proof the category and will further complement the new Green List and Highly Paid residence pathways.

“The previous system restricted the number applications which were progressed through a planning range, this meant that only 40% of SMC applications were processed in 2019.

“Our proposed changes, include removing the planning range, so that all applications that meet the criteria will be processed. It will also include a more simplified points system, will set a clear, fair and transparent eligibility threshold and offer several ways for people to demonstrate their skill level.

“The proposed changes will also see a faster route to residence for very highly skilled migrants, such as university lecturers or scientists who hold a PhD, while other professionals such as teachers and registered tradespeople will have a clear route if they work for a period in New Zealand. The new system will improve processing times and there will be no cap on the number of people who can gain residence each year, if they meet the skills threshold,” Michael Wood said.

The Government is also delivering on a 2020 election promise to reduce barriers to access the Parent Category Visa, including increasing the number of parent resident visas granted each year and reducing the income thresholds.

“We recognise the importance for migrants resettling here to have a pathway for their parents to join them,” said Michael Wood.

“Re-starting the parent category is the right thing to do, and will see New Zealand become an even more attractive destination for high skilled migrants looking to resettle long term, knowing they can do so with their families.

“Alongside reopening and modernising the category it means more family reunifications,” Michael Wood said.

The category will see a lower income threshold for sponsors, a new ballot, and the resumption of selecting expressions of interest from the existing queue starting 14 November, among other changes.

“The number of Parent Resident Visas granted each year will also increase to 2,500 a year,” Michael Wood said.

“Resuming selections from existing Expressions of Interest queue is a priority, and I know how important this is to many migrant families. I’m pleased to say selections will resume on 14 November, and up to 2,000 visas a year will be granted to people with existing expressions of interest.

“As part of modernising the Parent Category, from today, any new expressions of interest submitted will go into a ballot rather than add to the existing queue.

“Moving to a ballot means people will avoid a lengthy queue and they will be eligible for selection for two years after submitting their expression of interest.

“An additional 500 visas a year will be granted from the ballot, starting with the first selection in August 2023.

"Through our reconnection plan and changes to immigration settings we have a system that works for New Zealand long-term. We have created an immigration system which is responsive to international factors, while giving New Zealanders confidence that there is a plan and robust principles underlying how we manage immigration.

“We know it is tough for many businesses at the moment, but there are positive signs. We are seeing a strong demand for the Working Holiday Scheme, with more than 30,437 applications approved since March, with arrivals expected to pick up in the coming months.

“We recognise the important role the immigration system plays in our nation’s economic future. We are committed to working with businesses to ensure we are striking the right balance”, Michael Wood said.

Media contact: Travis Mills 021 865 714

Note to editors

Further information about can be found at the links below:

· Future of the Skilled Migrant Category Consultation

· Skilled Migrant Category reopening

· Parent Category

Proposed future Skilled Migrant Category points system:

· The proposed new system will require applicants to have at least 6 points. This can be made up of 3 to 6 points based on their NZ professional registration qualification or income. People who meet the minimum skill threshold can also claim 1 point per year worked in New Zealand in a skilled job, up to a maximum of 3 points.

· All migrants will have to have a job, or a job offer in New Zealand, and be paid at least the median wage for ANZSCO 1-3 occupations or at least 1.5 times the median wage for ANZSCO 4-5 occupations

· This is now open for formal consultation on the MBIE website.

Interim reopening:

· The first selection will be based on the status quo of 160 points, so those who have already submitted an expression of interest, or those who have made plans to come to New Zealand based on the current system, have an opportunity to apply at the current level.

· The first selection will take place on 9 November. People with existing applications will be advised about how to update their existing expressions of interest, or to withdraw and request a refund.

· Subsequent selections will be at an increased threshold 180 points. The first at this threshold will be on 18 January 2023. Any expressions of interest submitted after 9 November will need to meet 180 points.

Changes to the Parent Category

The changes are:

· Increasing the number of Parent Resident Visas granted each year from 1,000 a year to 2,500.

· Lowering the income threshold for sponsors to 1.5 times the median wage for one sponsor supporting one parent, and 2 times the median wage for joint sponsors.

· For someone sponsoring more than one parent, the income threshold will increase by 0.5 times the median wage for each additional parent sponsored, up to 6 parents.

· Expanding joint sponsorship arrangements to allow two adult children (siblings) to combine their income to meet the relevant threshold, rather than only with their partner (a maximum of two people sponsoring still applies).

· Re-starting the expressions of interest (EOI) selections from 14 November for people who already have EOIs in the queue. Selections will be made in chronological order.

· Introducing a ballot for new expressions of interest (EOI) selections, starting on 12 October 2022, with the first selection in August 2023. After that, selections are planned to take place every three months (August, November, February and May).

Current income threshold settings – Parent Category

 Previous settingsNew settings
Income threshold for sponsorsOne sponsor2x median wage
$115,481.60
One sponsor1.5x median wage
$86,611.20
Joint sponsors3x median wage
$173,222.40
Joint sponsors2x median wage
$115,481.60.
Sponsoring more than one parentIncome threshold increased by 1x median wage per parent (up to six parents)Income threshold increases by 0.5x median wage (currently $28,870.40) per parent (up to six parents)
  Siblings can co-sponsor applications

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