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Changes To Skilled Migrant Visa Leave People Unable To Meet 9 November Deadline


The Skilled Migrant Visa might have reopened, but there is no longer the ability to have an interim assessment of your qualifications – and a full assessment takes at least four months. This will leave many applicants unable to meet the looming deadline for the lower points threshold, and likely missing out on the visa completely. Aaron Martin, principal lawyer at New Zealand Immigration Law, outlines what the loss of this interim assessment means for those hoping to qualify under the Skilled Migrant Visa.

The Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa was finally reopened by the government last week, but there is one glaring omission from the new rules, with the disappearance of the preliminary qualification assessment conducted by NZQA. This is going to make it impossible for most applicants to file their Expressions of Interests before the 9 November draw at 160 points and before that threshold increases and they’re out of the running.

The rules pre-Covid

Before Covid-19 threw immigration into disarray and this visa was put on ice in March 2020, the government required most applicant to have the New Zealand Qualification Authority to do a preliminary assessment of their qualifications. This initial assessment would take a couple of weeks and allow applicants to include provisional recognition of their qualification with their application, and get a place in the queue, providing the full assessment later in the application process. A preliminary assessment gave a good enough indication of whether a qualification ticked the boxes for the residence process to start.

What has happened to the Initial Qualification Assessment?

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This quick check system is missing in action now, having been retired by the NZQA. That leaves the only option being the full qualification assessment that takes 12 weeks. You can’t complete the Immigration EOI until you get that. The math simply doesn’t add up here. If applicants have to wait the full four months to have their qualifications assessed, their chances of meeting the 9 November deadline are non-existent and many of them will also not meet the higher points (180) threshold.

Was the 4-month wait time for an IQA simply forgotten?

When the SMC category was shut down in 2020 the immigration minister announced it would be reviewed.

Consequently, everyone was expecting a new system to be started. It now seems that INZ have not made sufficient progress in 2 years to be able to launch a new system in 2022. So they have simply restarted the old system, seemingly unaware that the preliminary assessment is no longer available.

If this was an oversight, it’s grossly unfair to applicants who have been waiting patiently for this visa to re-open.

If the reopening was done with knowledge of NZQA’s retirement of this key process, it serves as another sign that immigration is not a priority for the Government and that the labour and skill shortages we are seeing now, will continue, leaving applicants and their families, and employers, frustrated.

Who does this impact?

This change will impact nearly everyone hoping to apply for the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) Resident Visa at 160 points that needs the qualifications assessed by NZQA. The list of qualifications exempt from assessment is fairly narrow, and without the assessment, you can’t even lodge an initial EOI, let alone continue with the visa application process.

Those impacted include people living in New Zealand on another visa hoping to qualify as a skilled migrant, or those still offshore, waiting patiently for this visa to reopen, only for it to reopen with multiple barriers to success.

These barriers include no longer having the preliminary IQA assessment, the short timeframe to meet the lower points threshold, or potential issues relating to proving a substantial match between your job offer and the ANZSCO description of your job.

It is unlikely to be much easier in 2023 either, with the points threshold jumping to 180, before the systems changes once more to the proposed six-point check list, which will place more value on higher qualifications and experience. This could be a problem for those who do not have at least a bachelor’s degree or those who don’t work in an area that requires occupational registration and do not earn one-and-a-half times the median wage. Selections are also becoming less frequent, and will be monthly instead of each fortnight, as was done previously.

New visa like a mirage in the desert

The celebration of the SMC Resident Visa reopening was short-lived. The announcement of it reopening, only for the short timeframes and the barriers to success make it bittersweet and is further indicative of a government who are in no hurry to speed up immigration. It’s a little like a mirage in the dessert – a promised reward that disappears as one get closer – in this case, close enough to see all the details, and obstacles, and your chances of success melting away.

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