The latest raft of changes in the Government’s reset of the permanent visa categories were announced in April 2017. These changes bring an income threshold for applications under the Skilled Migrant Category for residence. Jobs that are considered skilled must meet the New Zealand median income of $48,859 a year. The other threshold is set at 1.5 times the New Zealand median income of $73,299 for jobs that are not considered to be skilled but are well paid. These new rules will take effect from mid-August 2017.
A job is considered skilled by using a combination of a set list of identified occupations, and substantially matching the job description set out in the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO). For a person to be considered for one of these skilled jobs, they must have the right qualification, level of experience and now the right salary.
These changes bring two benefits. The first one is for all employees who are in roles that migrant workers are also filling. There are situations where migrants should be attracting a higher salary than they currently are, but employers are taking advantage of their vulnerability of needing a job for a residency application. These lower salaries are in turn forcing down market rates for non-migrant workers. Setting a minimum level puts a backstop on any downward trends.
The second benefit is for migrant workers in roles that are considered unskilled by Immigration New Zealand, but attract a high salary. These roles often require high levels of experience and expertise which is the reason behind the higher salary. These workers are regularly in demand, because of the low numbers available for employment with these levels of experience. This new salary threshold allows these non-skilled workers the opportunity to apply for residency under the Skilled Migrant category that they did not have before.
These changes, along with the earlier increase of the points threshold to 160, reflects the Government’s emphasis on attracting migrants with higher skill levels. However, it does mean that new graduates who may have been studying in New Zealand for several years will now struggle to gain residency straight after graduation. With the Government signaling similar income thresholds for applications under the Essential Skills Work Visa category, New Zealand is likely to see many international students having to leave New Zealand once they have completed their studies. This will potentially take a pool of newly skilled workers out of the labour market when New Zealand is facing a shortage. However, it should see a reduced number of students with low level qualifications whose skills are not in shortage being able to stay in New Zealand.
If you would like assistance with applying for residency, or any other immigration matter, contact Michelle Urquhart, Paul Milne or Lauren Qiu.