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Immigration Blog

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Posts in category: Skilled Migrant Category

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Migrating is more than just filling in forms and submitting paperwork; its a complex process that will test even the most resilient of people. Understanding Australia & New Zealand at a grass-roots level is paramount to your immigration survival, and to give you a realistic view of both countries, its people and how we see the world, as well as updates about any current or imminent policy changes, subscribe to our regular blog posts by entering your details below.

Is the Skilled Migrant pass mark set to increase?

Posted by Iain on Oct. 4, 2019, 3:20 p.m. in Skilled Migrant Category

Of late, and very publicly, the Immigration Department has been blaming the blow out in Skilled Migrant Resident Visa processing times to a surge in demand and a massive inflow of applications.  

I cannot help thinking that they are softening up the Minister of Immigration to increase to the skilled migrant pass mark from 160 to give themselves some breathing space to process the ever increasing backlogs that they have created. 

The reality is that there is no evidence to support the claim of significant increase in Resident Visa applications flowing into the system over the past 12 months but there is plenty of evidence that the restructuring that the Department has been undertaking over the past 12 months has been rushed and is disastrous. It has led to scores of newly employed, inexperienced and poorly trained immigration officers sitting in judgement on complex visa applications beyond their ability and capability to process. This is the single greatest factor that has led to the slowdown in decision making (we see the evidence every day).

It is this uncomfortable fact that the department does not want to concede but which I have little doubt has contributed to the blow out from 4 to 6 months to process most residency applications this time last year to more like 10 to 12 months today. The queues just keep getting longer.

The number of skilled migrant resident cases sitting waiting for a decision has now reached a point where there are 15,000 people waiting for decisions on their (largely) skilled residence visa applications. This is an increase of roughly 10,000 people over this time last year. INZ blames demand.

It would be easy to conclude that a points pass mark increase is warranted to slow down the inflow when you consider how many people are sitting waiting for the Visa to be processed.

Is there any evidence though of a surge in skilled migrant residence applications being filed?

Short answer is no - until early August. ‘Demand’ (being the number of people chasing the finite number of places available each year) seems to be fairly consistent over the past decade or so.

Our analysis based on the numbers below shows demand each year over the past decade is very consistent — it fluctuates but there’s no obvious evidence of any spike in demand.

People with applications receipted for processing were

2009/10  30,700

2010/11  23,500 

2011/12  23,400 

2012/13  24,000 

2013/14  24,000

2014/15  28,000

2015/16  32,800

2016/17  27,200

2017/18  21,500

2018/19  26,400

 Interestingly, the two months of August and September 2019 saw the number of applications receipted into the system for processing jump to an astonishing 7000. It is very hard to pin down where these have come from because extrapolate those two months out to the end of the 12-month period and those two months of receipts would suggest there will be 42,000 odd lining up for a resident visa.

Given average decline rates of resident visa applications, the final number of Resident Visas issued will be much lower and likely be closer to 34,000 — which is still a lot higher than the existing ’target’. For reasons I won’t explain here I predict a significant increase in decline rates over the coming months.’

INZ increased ‘pool’ selections to around 630 Expressions of Interest - note not people - from 550 each fortnight back in March, and the Resident Visas applications that will have followed, would absolutely contribute to the 7000 people added through August and September, but does not begin to explain the sudden and massive increase in people being receipted into INZ’s system.

Increased selection numbers and a 30% lower annual target of skilled migrants cannot begin to explain the massive increase in either the alleged surge nor the time it takes INZ to process these visas.

These historical data illustrate no significant increase in applications flowing INZ’s way over the past year— the reason INZ has so many cases on hand waiting for a decision seems to be better explained by INZ’s inability to process them.

The two month August-September 2019 snapshot of 7000 new ‘people’ sitting in the system presents an interesting ‘blip’ and I cannot explain why there has been such a significant jump. I suspect it is more administrative than some sudden surge in demand.

Those two months however might still be reason for INZ to suggest to the Minister that to get on top of the ’delays’ in processing, a pass mark increase from 160 might be nice. For the Department perhaps to save a little embarrassment, certainly not the employers and the economy of NZ.

After all, the Minister and the Government would likely prefer to sell the line that it is time for a ‘bit of a breather’ so they have decided on a ‘modest’ increase in selection point to 180 or more…as demand for places is outstripping the target’ Even if it isn’t strictly true.

Thinking about the political ‘optics’ blaming increased demand would always be preferable to this Government than admitting that under its watch the Immigration Department has descended into chaos following its recent restructuring requiring the employment in New Zealand of legions of new immigration officers who are quite clearly not equipped with the knowledge to process cases as quickly as in previous years.

What Minister would want to admit the ongoing INZ restructuring is the real cause of applications piling up? After all the work flow ‘in’ has not increased until 8 weeks ago, yet INZ is only now allocating (most) skilled Migrant Category cases received in December 2018! There was no increase in demand last year based on INZ’s data.

If there is a pass mark increase, the markets will freak and we know how easy it is to turn the migrant tap off and how much harder it is to turn it back on.

If, as Minister of Immigration Lees-Galloway keeps saying (as did his National Party predecessor before him) ‘it isn’t a numbers game, it’s a quality game’, then the pass mark should stay where it is and INZ should be told to pull its delivery socks up. Such a decision also has political risks for the Minister of course if (when?) the Department doesn’t.

It should not be forgotten when thinking about this speculative piece, we are heading into an election year next. Our Deputy Prime Minister (‘Mr 5-7%’ of the popular vote) is one who will be reaching for the well-worn speech he dusts off every three years proclaiming we let in too many migrants in order to secure another three years of influencing our nations policies. A selection point increase now with the associated ‘look, we are cutting back’ message would surely play well to his old, white base and boost his re-election chances in 2020….

And the Labour Party, which currently only governs at that politician’s pleasure is unlikely to want to deny him given he is the difference between them ruling or observing from the side lines.

What is clear to me is that demand is not driving up processing times — it’s INZ’s failure to be able to deliver decision making at the same rate it historically has. How they manipulate that and how the Politicians weight up the political and economic risks will determine whether the skilled migrant pass mark is going to be increased.

I’d say the risk they’ll put it up to save embarrassment is increasing by the day.

I am not saying the pass mark will increase. I am saying I can see the Department agitating for it and politicians thinking blaming ‘migrant demand’ for the situation created by internal departmental chaos, sounds a whole lot better than taking responsibility for the processing chaos created under their and the bureaucracy’s ‘leadership’.

Until next week 

Iain MacLeod

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Skilled employment and ANZSCO

Posted by Iain on Sept. 28, 2018, 2:29 p.m. in Skilled Migrant Category

Part of the mystery to applicants is how immigration officers decide if the job they hold in New Zealand is a ‘substantial match’ to the skilled job descriptions in the Australia New Zealand Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO).

To get your head around his, you must first understand what ANZSCO is - it is in effect a list of all the occupations known to the Australian and New Zealand Departments of Statistics. It was never designed for use by Immigration Departments in Australia and New Zealand. It is used for statistical gathering purposes. It was, a number of years ago, adopted by both as a tool to give to immigration officers to determine whether what someone says they do all day can be matched against one of these skilled occupations. It was thought, naively, it would lead to better and more consistent decision making because it meant immigration officers wouldn’t need to think too hard.

That presupposes of course, that employers, when offering jobs, consult with the ANZSCO in constructing job descriptions. Obviously, most have never heard of the ANZSCO let alone appreciate the critical role it plays in the minds of immigration officers when deciding whether that employer is going to get the services of that skilled migrant.

This is compounded by the lack of knowledge of their own rules displayed constantly by immigration officers. To be fair on them, I learned to my horror a week or so ago around 50% of officers, sitting in judgement on resident visa applications are new to the job and lack anything more than a few weeks of training and a rudimentary understanding of the rules.

Back to the process - if you claim points for a job offer in NZ, you are expected to provide the six digit ‘lead definition’ number in ANZSCO of the occupation that you think most closely aligns with the tasks of the job in New Zealand. This ’lead definition’ tells you what the primary responsibilities will be for someone working in that role. In some cases it can be quite straight forward as the job description as claimed, doesn't overlap much with any other - think Primary School Teacher versus High School Teacher. They both teach but the difference is the age of those they are teaching.

ANZSCO also provides a four digit unit code which is a ‘family’ of similar but different occupations that broadly fall into one ‘related’ group. ANZSCO provides a single bullet pointed list of all the tasks in all of these occupations under this four digit unit code.

Take Civil Engineering Professionals as an example - this four digit ‘family’ comprises Quantity Surveyor, Construction Estimator, Civil Engineer, Geotechnical Engineer, Structural Engineer and Transport Engineer.

Clearly a Transport Engineer doesn’t have much in common with a Quantity Surveyor but a Construction Estimator does.

Immigration Officers are expected, without prejudice or prejudgment, to compare the job description of the applicant with the six digit lead definition in ANZSCO and ask a pretty simple question - is it a ‘substantial match’?

This is not always easy and even those of us with years of experience can disagree over the ‘closest fit’ simply because two occupations can appear to be very similar, Construction Estimator and Quantity Surveyor is a good example.

The six digit lead definition in ANZSCO for a QS describes a role that ‘Estimates and monitors construction costs from the project feasibility stage, through tender preparation, to the construction period and beyond.’ 

A Construction Estimator describes a role that ‘Prepares and delivers estimates and cost plans for construction projects up to the tender settlement stage’

Similar but not the same. Equally it needs to be said, not that hard to work out whether an applicant’s job description is more like one than the other.

‘Substantial match’ is broadly defined as where an applicant does ‘most’ of the tasks listed in the six digit lead definition. One officers ‘most’ though is not the same as another's.

Immigration rules require objectivity and an assessment which requires officers to grapple with the facts - check the applicant’s job description against the six digit lead definition. When there is some overlap in tasks between two occupations officers must decide which occupation represents the better match.

Although I helped to write last year what at the time was thought to be a pretty simple series of steps to help officers apply this rule, now enshrined in the immigration rule book, it continues to amaze and frustrate me that officers so often seem unable to understand a process and apply this rule which requires them to ask:

1. Is the applicant’s job description a substantial match to the six digit unit code for the occupation they nominated in their application? If yes, it is skilled and points should be awarded.

2. If it is not a substantial match, is it a close match to another (skilled) occupation based on its six digit lead definition? If yes, it is skilled.

3. If the answers to one and two is no, officers are directed to consider whether they can find the answer in the four digit ‘family’ group task list but they are also directed to only take into account those tasks listed that are relevant to the nominated occupation (or to another not nominated by the applicant). This is because that list encompasses all the task of all the occupations in the group

4. If they conclude that there is no substantial match to any six digit lead definition or the relevant four digit unit group tasks they are to compare it to the three digit unit group - I’ve never seen a single case of this happening. If that doesn’t satisfy them the only conclusion is that the occupation does not appear in ANSZCO and;

5. The officer has one more assessment tool they must use in this situation and that is to assess whether the applicant is earning enough to be considered skilled irrespective of what their job description details. That rule says that if they earn an effective hourly rate of $36.44 per hour their job is skilled even if they are employed to vacuum the floor. If they do not earn that minimum, their job is not skilled and they cannot be awarded points for their job.

It really shouldn’t be as difficult as many officers make it, but a combination of a paranoid culture, lack of sufficient experienced officers and institutional knowledge, and at times, the unfortunate reality that INZ employs people that are out of their intellectual depth, continues to lead to inconsistent and incorrect decision making.

Working out what is the most appropriate occupation to nominate and being able to back that up with genuine, clear and evidence based proof of daily tasks in New Zealand is critical to the success of all skilled migrant applications, and it all starts (and should usually finish) with the six digit led definition.

Until next week 

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Tags: work visa

Work in NZ: The 5 Key Drivers

Posted by Iain on Feb. 9, 2018, 5:14 p.m. in Skilled Migrant Category

The start to 2018 has been among the busiest we’ve ever experienced here at IMMagine. Packed houses across Singapore, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur and turning people away in South Africa, literally in their hundreds, as that country continues to make building futures - particularly for its youngsters - an ever more perilous proposition.

Part of the plan to handle the demand is to encourage people to order Skype consultations with us so that we can give them the answers they want far more quickly and without having to wait for our regular seminars. Naturally of course, that also enables us to offer our services to far more people from far more countries. New Zealand continues to be attractive to people from, well, almost everywhere.  

What strikes me when I consult with people on the Skilled Migrant pathway (the points system) and the process to achieve the current selection points of 160, is that while most understand the process and the steps to achieve the visitor, work and resident visas that virtually all Skilled Category cases demand, many still miss the point on the executing the strategy and order of events. In particular, how to go about securing a job and the timing of that part of the process.  

Once I complete the consultation, given how much ground we cover during the 60 – 80 minutes it takes, I always invite questions in the days following. I think it’s fair to say that once the reality of what the process demands sinks in respect of the financial, emotional and logistical commitment, many are probably shell-shocked.

Most, understandably, cannot get their head around how a Government that professes to welcome skilled migrants and which itself spends close to NZ$9 million a year marketing the country, makes it so damned difficult for those skilled migrants it says it wants so badly.

I hear myself explaining the disconnection between the way the visa process works and the way the labour market works, i.e. what employers want is people with works rights and residency preferably, whereas the Government says ‘find a job first and we’ll think about giving you a visa’.

As I explain to everybody at seminars and consultations, the 5 key drivers which determine the speed with which migrants get jobs that open the doors to Work Visas and Residency, in descending order of importance, are:

  1. Being in New Zealand, available for interviews and sending a very strong signal of commitment to the process;
  2. Speaking very good English;
  3. Cultural compatibility, i.e. for most positions, the less like the dominant culture you are, the less likely you are to get employment;
  4. Resilient personality – you must be able to take the hard knocks of rejection for weeks and sometimes months;
  5. Demand for your skills — if you tick the four boxes above demand takes care of itself — most of our clients are not on any skills shortages list.

Most people imagine that it is demand for skills and shortages of skills that determines the speed with which people get work. This has never been the case in my experience; it is those first 4 criteria that are the key drivers and none more so than number 2. There are some exceptions to that, especially in highly technical roles such as IT where there isn’t a lot of human interaction going on.

What still amazes me is how many people email me a few days later and they say “Right Iain, so what I need to do first is to get a job so I will start applying online...”

To them I reply “No, the first thing is not to get a job, the first thing to do is to lay the foundation for coming to New Zealand to find a job and that usually involves English language examinations, qualification assessments, gathering all the documentation required so that when you get the job, we can move very quickly in order to keep the New Zealand employer happy in terms of a prospective start date.' 

I completely understand why many people freak out at the prospect and simply roll over and go back to sleep, hoping tomorrow will bring better prospects for their family’s future than today.

That is the very reason why all the talk in the local media about Brits fleeing Brexit and Americans fleeing Trump is simply not true and there is no evidence to support the assertion that New Zealand is benefitting from those two acts of nationalistic madness. Unlike a country like South Africa which is clearly falling apart at the seams, people in the UK still have law and order, still have running water, don’t have a broken political system (well, not very broken) and as vile as Trump may be, most Americans still have electricity, running water, rising wages and jobs.  There’s no great pressure on them to take the risks inherent in the NZ Skilled Migrant Category process, real or perceived.

For those people who live in countries where the future is far less certain, a small percentage will decide - having weighed up the risks, done their research and consulted with professionals - that it is their only option. They still need to commit and to be in, boots and all. There is not much to be gained from applying for online jobs - it works for a minority, but no more than 10% in our experience.

Not understanding the reality of the job search process is the main reason why the Brits will still be complaining about their weather, crowded motorways and too many immigrants in Birmingham long after Brexit has run its course.

Ultimately, skilled migration takes incredible planning, careful execution, usually a great deal more money than most people ever imagine and a single-minded focus on the reasons what needs to happen to climb the visa mountain.

The New Zealand Government never seems interested in making it easier and nor for that matter do most employers, despite their constant moaning about skill shortages as this economy continues to create around 10,000 jobs a month and we have a labour market with virtually no skilled unemployed anymore.

Understanding the pathway to employment is critical in any successful strategy for skilled migrants and our consultations cover that in some detail.

Until next week...

Iain MacLeod, Southern Man


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Danger in the Pool

Posted by Iain on Nov. 24, 2017, 4:27 p.m. in Skilled Migrant Category

Just when you thought it was safe to get back into the water after the Skilled Migrant changes earlier this year in both New Zealand and Australia, it seems that you might need to think again.

Both countries allow applicants to file Expressions of Interest and enter their skilled migrant pools – in Australia you need a minimum of 60 points and in New Zealand, 160, (we give more points to qualifications and work experience but the type of person with those scores will be very similar). In both countries the immigration year begins on 1 July.

New Zealand targets 27,000 skilled migrants per year with a variance of 10%. Between the start of the immigration year and 3 November, New Zealand approved and issued around 4,100 resident visas. If you annualise that you’ll see that it will barely reach 50% of the stated target. That is not to tell the whole story however. We had clearly signalled that there would be no pool ‘draws’ for six weeks through to late August as the new system was reset. This saw three draws skipped. 

It may be that numbers recover in the months to come but given the difficulties I have written about so often about the disconnect between the visa process and the labour market (employers want work visas but Government won’t give work visas without jobs for the most part), the jury is out on whether New Zealand will reach its self-declared quotas this year.

I see no prospect of pass mark increases.

The question is whether we will see it fall. If so when the politicians will let it as unemployment continues to fall rapidly in NZ. It is now down to 4.6% which effectively means if you want to work there is a job with your name on it.

We are continuing to find that in the significant majority of cases our English speaking and experienced clients are finding jobs in 8-10 weeks. If all migrants are doing the same then I think that there is a chance the pass marks may not need to fall and the next few months will confirm that.

Over in Australia things have taken a bizarre turn in recent times.

The Aussies, never ones for originality, took the NZ skilled migrant system – Expressions of Interest (EOI), a pool, selection and invitation, modified it and I believe are seeing the first signs of it falling apart.

Historically to meet their own skilled migrant quotas (which are not national quotas like NZ where you compete against everyone chasing one of those 27,000 places, but occupation quotas – you compete against those in the same ‘nominated occupation’ as you).

Historically, the Australians needed to select 2000 EOIs each selection period. They have cut that in half since July 1. Inexplicably or with an arrogance that one might suggest is misplaced, they feel no obligation it seems to ever explain what they are doing, nor why. The implications of cuts to the numbers being selected means more people are fighting for fewer places and that pushes up pass marks.

One might speculate they might be doing this to push applicants toward state sponsorship. It would be nice to know.

In Australia, each State or territory has its own ‘in demand’ occupation lists so there is the possibility the Federal Government is in effect abandoning their own national occupation targets and devolving the decision on which skilled migrants get into Australia to the various  States. If they are it makes some sense. I’ve never understood how some bureaucrat in Canberra can possibly know how many Primary School Teachers, Electrical Engineers or Software Developers the economy needs over the next year.

State sponsorship has the advantage of creating greater certainty for our clients as the pass mark for those with state sponsorship is fixed at 60.

Further, the Australian Government recently decided, again without explanation, not to do a pool draw. This has huge implications on many levels. We have at least one client in the pool (after racing the clock to get him to that point following a Herculean effort by our team in Melbourne) who turns 40 any day now. At that point, while he will still secure a Permanent Resident Visa, it won’t be the ‘live wherever you wish’ visa, but a State Sponsorship visa which requires him to have an ‘intention’ to settle, or at least spend two years in that state. He doesn’t have to live there, the law on that is clear, but he is expected to ‘give it a go’ (whatever that means).

If the Australian Government does not offer greater certainty to applicants they’ll lose people they say they need as more and more choose countries where a plan offers greater certainty.

We also suspect that Australia is suffering a flood of fraudulent or at least mischievous EOIs. Whereas in NZ you pay to file an EOI, in Australia you don’t. I have always thought this invited frivolous applications. When there is no skin in the game there is nothing stopping people filling as many EOIs as they like.

If they claim the pass mark they must be selected. Equally stupidly, unlike NZ, being selected from the pool leads to an automatic and guaranteed Invitation to Apply for residence. We believe that this is the reason that the pass mark for Accountants for example shot up to 85 points despite the annual quota of places being doubled this immigration year. The pass mark at the end of the previous immigration year was 70-75. When you double the supply of places unless there is an unprecedented increase in demand (which there has not been) the pass mark should have fallen, not gone up. That strongly suggests people are filing frivolous applications. And why not? It’s free!

I hope the Aussies learn from NZ some of the lessons of running a pool system. Charge to get into it. Don’t automatically invite everyone that you select. Carry out credibility assessments. Invite them when things look credible. They’d cut down on the fraudulent and plain stupid applications if people had to pay the $500 odd that you pay to file an EOI in NZ and while credibility checks in NZ still result in large numbers of applicants being declined, our system isn’t broken.

Australia’s is. While they don’t tend to take advice off Kiwis they might want to do so on this occasion.

If they don’t, skilled migrants will continue to look elsewhere when Australia’s slowly falling unemployment rates and an improving job market for skills suggests they need these skills sets.

But hey, they’re Aussies, and since when have you been able to tell an Aussie they might not be doing something right?

Until next week...


The Skilled Migrant – Determining Deemed Qualified Date

Posted by Iain on Sept. 1, 2017, 6:27 p.m. in Skilled Migrant Category

Under the new Skilled Migrant rules that were formally released this week but which I have had a copy of for some time, applicants now face a somewhat complicated issue when claiming points for work experience under the Skilled Migrant Category. 

The Government has now introduced what is effectively a “deemed qualified date”.  I suspect many people, including Immigration Officers, are going to have a lot of trouble working out when that date occurred.  Under the new rules, anyone trying this application process themselves has to become familiar with the Australia New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) reference material.  This “book” is a list of all the occupations known to these two Government departments and provide task lists for them.

Only work experience that is Skill Level 1, 2 or 3 as recorded in ANZSCO will now qualify for work experience points (with some exceptions but I won’t go there). 

You will be required to identify the occupation that most closely matches your claimed period of work experience.

Once you have done that you’ll notice that ANZSCO records that a particular qualification such as a degree or diploma or certificate is required to be deemed qualified or (usually) some period of work experience may substitute for that qualification.  More higher-level/skilled work experience tends to require a Bachelor Degree or higher, or five years of work experience can substitute for it.

Where the applicant does not have the listed relevant qualification, they must deduct five years of their Skill Level 1, 2 or 3 work experience from their overall work experience claim.

Where an applicant has both the relevant degree and more than the minimum years of relevant work experience, the rule book is meant to say they get to choose which they want to use to be deemed qualified.

In a situation where an applicant completed school, went to university, obtained a degree for example and then began their career, it’s relatively simple, i.e. you would be deemed qualified and would claim you were  based on when you got your degree.

If you have no degree you must deduct a few years of skilled work experience from your claim.

If you fished school, went to work and then say completed a degree when you were older, it becomes far more problematic.

Take for example, a 38 year old who completed a Bachelor of Commerce in 2012 but had been working as a Marketing Manager since they were aged 27.

They have 9 years of work at Skill Level 1, 2 or 3 as a Marketing Manager and let’s also assume they have a job in New Zealand as a Marketing Manager.

They must therefore decide whether they use the Bachelor Degree as the deemed qualified date and only the five years of post-qualification work experience since 2012 or they deduct five years of work experience from the 9 years that they have, leaving 4 years of work experience for which points can be awarded.

This gives two very different outcomes and could be the difference between success or failure.  If the applicant went with option 1, their points look like the following:

Age                          30

Degree                     50

Work experience       50

Job offer                   50

Total                        180

If they went with the second option, then their points are:

Age                         30

Degree                    50

Work experience      20

Job offer                  40

Total                       140

Another complication that has been introduced into the process is that the degree must be deemed “relevant” to the occupation listed in ANZSCO.  So what happens if, for example, in the example above, the applicant’s Bachelor of Commerce was in Economics but they have worked as a Marketing Manager?  Is that going to be deemed to be relevant by an Immigration Officer or not?

The rule book now suggests that Immigration Officers should look at the “major” in determining the answer.  But how much of a degree is a major and how much is a minor?  And what happens if, for example,  one-third of the subjects were marketing-related, one-third perhaps accounting and one-third economics?  How will Immigration Officers determine whether that is relevant or not relevant to working as a Marketing Manager?

One suspects, inconsistently.

What has been delivered to us in terms of the Skilled Migrant Category is a level of complexity we have never seen before.  Applicants are going to have to be able to justify against ANZSCO job descriptions why their employment is deemed to be Skill Level 1, 2 or 3 and then to demonstrate by way of evidence that the work periods they have claimed points for are a very close match to it.  I will make a very bold but easy prediction right now – rejection rates for those selected from the Pool and decline rates for those who file Resident Visa applications will go through the roof.

Until next week…            


Amendments to the Skilled Migrant Instructions

Posted by Iain on Aug. 18, 2017, 6:20 p.m. in Skilled Migrant Category

Government released the amendments to the skilled migrant instructions yesterday that I and a few other experts have been helping to draft in recent weeks.

No surprises having seen a third draft ten days ago.

Major changes to Skilled Migrant points include:

  • Increase in points for those aged 30-39 from 25  to 30 points
  • Increase in points for Master degrees and higher from 60 to 70 points
  • Increase in points for work experience from a maximum 30 to 50 points

Reduction or elimination of points for:

  • Close family in NZ -  was 10, now 0
  • Qualifications in an area of absolute skills shortage  - was 10 now 0
  • NZ work experience - from maximum of 15 down to 10
  • Partner’s qualifications - Diploma or less to 0 (from 10) points , Bachelor or higher down to 10 (from 20 points)

Addition of:

  • Points for high salary of around $97,000 - 20

One interesting change is that any job in NZ that comes with a guaranteed minimum salary (note, not remuneration package) of $73,299 is deemed to be skilled for points (50 of them if the job is offered in Auckland or 80 if outside) and all relevant, for want of a better word, work experience now attracts points.

The example we like to offer is the migrant with a job in NZ as a pencil salesman and 20 years work experience in the same occupation will now get points for the job offer and all his work experience (even though neither has historically counted) so long as there is a guaranteed salary of a touch under $75,000. This is a radical departure and demonstrates that skill can now be based on what the position pays.

In theory a tea lady who is guaranteed this salary can get into NZ permanently. 

At the same time the Government has released new Essential Skills Work Visa rules and again no surprises.

The key points here are:

  • Salary prescribes how long the work visa can be granted for (up to 12 months, 3 years or 5 years)
  • At the lowest end of the scale low skilled workers can apply to ‘renew’ their work visas for another two blocks of 12 months but must leave NZ at the end of the stay for a full 12 months. They will also not be able to bring their partners or children with them. This is a clear signal Government does not expect these lower skill folk to expect to put down roots or ask to stay long term (it isn’t going to happen)

In a further change that is already causing havoc is Government now expects all employers to demonstrate they have historically, and will in future, comply with all NZ immigration and employment law.

I am not sure how anyone can prove they will not break a law in future...and I do not know how they can prove that they have not in the past without getting a letter from the Ministry of Justice confirming no convictions against that company or business for breaches of such laws.

Instead of perhaps telling employers to do precisely this, in typical INZ fashion they are taking this rule to extremes and case officers are demanding for example tax records for every employee in a company and along with that, wage and hours worked records for every employee. 

Only this week this evidence has been demanded from a company a client of ours has been offered a senior management role with, paying six figures...the company employs 41 staff including three migrants. You might think, given the rules are designed to prevent migrants being exploited, INZ would only want to see the records of the three on work visas. But no, they want the lot...

We have questioned senior INZ managers how reviewing tax records and hours worked of a person proves that the employer has not broken any laws? If they had copies of their employment contracts then maybe, but they are not asking for all 41 of those.

These new rules for both Skilled Migrant Category are going to be a nightmare. The great thing about being invited to assist in drafting them is understanding the objective of the changes making us best placed to push back when, inevitably and sadly, immigration officers get it all wrong. The madness seems never to end.

Until next week...

Iain MacLeod - Southern Man


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