New Zealand: Promising changes proposed for business immigration

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Prime Minister John Key announced a set of immigration proposals that would benefit employers who rely on foreign workers, especially for working outside of Auckland, and eliminate extra steps in the labour market check process.

What does the change mean? The changes would provide incentives for skilled migrants to work outside Auckland, streamline the process for employers to obtain labour market checks, and allow a limited number of foreign workers in the South Island to obtain residency even without meeting skilled migrant criteria.

  • Implementation time frame: If approved, the changes will start to take effect in November.
  • Visas/permits affected: Work permits, residence permits.
  • Who is affected: Skilled migrants outside Auckland, lower-skilled migrant workers on the South Island.
  • Impact on processing times: Some of the proposals would improve the overall process: labour market testing would be less cumbersome, and fewer foreign workers on the South Island would have to re-apply every year for work permits.
  • Business impact: The proposals would have a positive impact on employers sponsoring foreign workers and could help contribute to the economy outside Auckland.

Details of the proposals:

  1. Skilled migrants would be awarded 30 points for taking a job outside Auckland for at least one year. Currently, they receive 10 points. A minimum of 100 points is typically required for residence under the skilled category, and a skilled job alone is worth 50 points; thus, under the proposed rule, skilled migrants working outside of Auckland would only have to earn 20 additional points, which could be earned simply for being younger than age 44.
  2. Six hundred foreign workers in the South Island would be allowed to obtain residence even if they do not meet criteria for the skilled migrant category. This will primarily benefit lower-skilled workers in long-term jobs on the South Island, who currently are unable to apply for residency and whose employers must re-apply for visas every year and fulfil labour market checks annually. They must have applied at least five times in the past for their work visa to have been renewed.
  3. Employers applying for temporary work visas would be able to conduct labour market checks more easily by listing jobs directly with Work and Income New Zealand and obtaining an approval letter if the agency determines that New Zealand citizens are not available for the position.

BAL Analysis: Although still in the proposal stage, the changes appear to have popular appeal in spreading migration to outer regions and would be welcomed by employers who rely on workers from overseas.