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Immigration Blog


Posts with tag: skilled migration

Immigration Blog

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.

Take Me Home, Country Road

Posted by Myer on July 20, 2018, 8:16 p.m. in Australia

And the place where you belong, contrary to what the song would indicate, is not West Virginia, but Geelong, Adelaide, Hobart or any other part of Australia that is “regional”.

Recent changes to Australia’s skilled migration program is going to have the effect of placing more of you on country roads than ever before.

Figures just released evidence that Australia accepted approximately 162,000 permanent migrants in 2017/18, down from about 183,000 the year before, and well below the 190,000-a-year quota. Net migration was 240,000 but this includes those who are not only arriving as permanent residents but those on visas allowing a stay of 12 months or more, which is a fair number of people to accommodate in terms of accommodation, transportation, healthcare facilities and education facilities.

We also learned this week that Australia’s population is set to reach 25 million in August 2018 some 24 years earlier than predicted in 2002.

Australia’s larger cities such as Sydney and Melbourne are suffering from congestion, infrastructure that cannot support a growing population, rising property prices (although having said that, at time of writing property prices in Melbourne and Sydney are forecast to decrease by 1 – 2%) and in the context of these issues migration to the larger cities is said to be adding to the burden.

Yet on the other hand, Australia has a shortage of skilled people in regional areas. Regional areas would constitute some of the smaller cities in Australia such as Adelaide and Hobart as well as anywhere outside of the metropolitan areas of Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Perth to name a few.

Since late 2016, job vacancy growth in regional areas has outstripped vacancy growth in our largest cities. According to the latest Internet Vacancy Index released by the Australian Government, vacancies in regions have grown by 20 per cent since February 2016 compared to only a 10 per cent increase in our largest cities.

These growing vacancies are occurring across a range of job opportunities. 

This is the context in which some of Australia’s recent policy changes have taken place aimed at reducing the number of migrants destined for Australia’s major cities and encouraging migration to smaller cities and towns. These changes include:

  1. A more restricted list of occupations that is available for nomination by an employer for permanent residence for those with jobs in non-regional areas (metropolitan areas)
  2. An increase in the pass mark for general skilled migration visas (points tested visas that do not require offers of employment) from 60 to 65 points on 1 July of this year. This may not sound like a significant increase however as state sponsorship for the regionally sponsored 489 visa is worth 10 points and state sponsorship for the non-regionally sponsored 190 visa is worth 5 points there is an added incentive for many more people to seek regional state sponsorship.
  3. A greater number of state governments listing more occupations available for subclass 489 visas only
  4. The addition of the regional occupation list which stipulates that certain occupations can only be sponsored by state governments for 489 visa applications.
  5. A number of positions normally available for independent 189 applications has been made available to those New Zealand citizens living in Australia for a period of five years more, earning a threshold income and paying tax although this type of change really just means swapping profiles of applicants from skilled migrants overseas without job offers to Kiwi’s who are onshore with job offers and paying tax.

As most of these changes have occurred in the months April– July 2018 they are to soon to have caused the reduction in permanent migrants in 2017/18, from 183,000 to 162,000 and their effects both in terms of the annual quota of permanent migrants as well as the effects on diverging migrant flows from metropolitan to regional areas is yet to be felt. 

In fact it may take some time before the true effects of these changes are felt because of transitional provisions available to those on work visas in Australia at the time these changes came into effect. Those on temporary 457 visas still have a greater number of occupations to transition to permanent residence and it could be as much as 4 years before the full effect of the changes take place.

It’s therefore ironic that we are having a debate about migration numbers in the context of some of the harshest changes to immigration policy that I have seen in the last nine years.

It is, however, overdue that we should have an informed debate about population size and whether the vision for Australia is a “big” Australia, or “sustainable” one as some of the terms that politicians have been bandying about and to then design in immigration policy designed to meet that target. Instead of what we have been doing the past is to come up with an arbitrary annual quota because in the absence of a formal population policy, Australia’s immigration policy is its de facto population policy.

For the foreseeable future I expect that there will be more Van der Merwes, Singhs and Lees found enjoying the country lifestyle of Australia.

- Myer Lipschitz, Managing Partner (Melbourne Office)

Australia Lists New Occupations

Posted by Kane on July 6, 2017, 9:03 p.m. in Australia

We are at that time of year again where the state governments of Australia issue new lists of occupations that they are willing to nominate for permanent residence. This has suddenly become increasingly important with the government now restricting many occupations from getting permanent residence through the employer sponsored pathway, leaving the state sponsorship option the most likely chance gaining residence.

So far, the following states have released their occupation lists:


Queensland have 4 different lists depending on where you live or study. The list applicable to most is the offshore or interstate list.

The list of occupations is rather broad with trades workers, medical professionals and social workers in most demand. Also some surprising occupations such as public relations professionals, interior designers, building associates and insurance agents were listed.

ICT occupations also feature but with the added requirement of needing a job offer.

Engineers are on the list but will need registration with the Queensland board of engineers.

See the Queensland list update here.

If  you are already working in Queensland, then the list of occupations is bigger, giving more options to qualify.

South Australia

Just released with all the occupations now reopened and there are a lot more occupations that are now only offered a provisional 489 visa rather than the subclass 190 permanent visa. Adelaide is at least considered part of regional Australia and provides a stepping stone to permanent residence.

See the South Australia list update here.


Tasmania are now accepting applications without the need of a job offer if your occupation features on their list. Which is a big shift from their previous policy where your only real chance was to either study in Tasmania, or receive a strong job opportunity in the region. You will however only qualify for the provisional visa but this is a bonafide stepping stone to permanent residency.

Tasmania will also still sponsor applicants with close family in the state, have a strong job offer, studied in the state or are willing to start a business.

See the Tasmania list update here.


The ACT has released a shorter list than previous years, with a number of journalistic occupations being added. Trades workers remain in demand within the state.

See the ACT list update here.


ICT occupations are now available again through Victoria. Trades, Engineers and Sciences are still in demand.

See the Victoria list update here.

If your occupation is not on the Medium to Long Term Skills Shortage List, you may still be able to qualify if one of the states is willing to nominate your occupation for residency under the state sponsored pathway.

To find out if you are eligible for migration to one of the states in Australia, please order one of assessments with a registered consultant from IMMagine.

When is the right time to apply?

Posted by Myer on Feb. 26, 2017, 4:30 p.m. in Australia lifestyle

I had a recent consultation with someone in Singapore who wanted to immigrate to Australia for the purposes of educating his children at University but didn’t necessarily want to immigrate during the initial five-year period that an independent visa would allow (the children were quite young).

It’s not always not up to you to choose the time when you can apply for permanent residence because of the amount of change that occurs in the immigration process. It’s more likely that the time chooses you.

I’m never able to “time-the-market” when I buy a house or buy or sell equities but I can tell you that the perfect time to apply for permanent residence is the time at which you meet the eligibility requirements and if that time is now then as inconvenient is the time may be, you need to act. Often the only difference between eligibility and and missing the opportunity completely is timing.

Most applicants aren’t aware of the amount of change that occurs in the course of a relatively short period of time. Not only do applicants get older (and one’s chances of securing a visa never improves with age) but there is also a significant amount of change occurring within immigration policy.

Perhaps one of the most significant changes - certainly in terms of general skilled migration visas - is the publication of the Skilled Occupations List which occurs on 1 July of each year. This list determines which occupations will be eligible for obtaining independent permanent residence without requiring state sponsorship and represent those skills that are in medium to long-term demand in Australia.

Certain occupations have been “flagged” for possible removal in the future. Generally, occupations are flagged when there is emerging evidence of excess supply in the labour market.

The list of flagged occupations for the list to be published on one July 2017 is as follows:

  • Production Manager (Mining)
  • Accountant (General)
  • Management Accountant
  • Taxation Accountant
  • Actuary
  • Land Economist
  • Valuer
  • Ship’s Engineer
  • Ship’s Master
  • Ship’s Officer
  • Surveyor
  • Cartographer
  • Other Spatial Scientist
  • Chemical Engineer
  • Civil Engineer
  • Geotechnical Engineer
  • Quantity Surveyor
  • Structural Engineer
  • Transport Engineer
  • Electronics Engineer
  • Industrial Engineer
  • Mechanical Engineer
  • Production or Plant Engineer
  • Aeronautical Engineer
  • Agricultural Engineer
  • Biomedical Engineer
  • Engineering Technologist
  • Environmental Engineer
  • Naval Architect
  • Medical Laboratory Scientist
  • Veterinarian
  • Medical Diagnostic Radiographer
  • Medical Radiation Therapist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Podiatrist
  • Speech Pathologist
  • General Practitioner
  • Anaesthetist
  • Cardiologist
  • Endocrinologist
  • Gastroenterologist
  • Intensive Care Specialist
  • Paediatrician
  • Obstetrician and Gynaecologist
  • Medical Practitioners nec
  • Barrister
  • Solicitor
  • Psychotherapist
  • Psychologists nec
  • Chef*
  • Boat Builder and Repairer
  • Shipwright

Not only does the Skilled Occupations List change, but so do the quotas of each particular occupation sought by the Australian Government under its skilled migration visas.

These quotas are also announced on 1 July and determine the pass marks of independent visas. Several years ago it was possible to obtain permanent residence for an Accountant scoring 60 points with no previous work experience as an accountant, however a cut in the quota of accountants have meant that these days accountants need to score 70 points. 

Some applicants might need State sponsorship if their occupation appears on the Consolidated Skilled Occupations List and whilst these state sponsorship lists are reflective of the skills needed by the 8 states or Territory’s in Australia, they too change depending upon the quota of a particular occupation required in a State or Territory.

Australia is, however, quite generous as to when applicants have to commence residing in Australia.

After the visa is granted, as long as you visit within 12 months specified by the Department, you have 5 years in which to immigrate. If you cannot immigrate within the first 5 years, as long as you visit Australia once every 5 year period you can always apply for a Resident Return Visa.

So whilst one has less choice about when to apply for permanent residence one has a greater degree of choice about the date that you ultimately choose to settle in Australia.

Shake Up of the Skilled Migrant Category

Posted by Iain on Oct. 11, 2016, 12:38 p.m. in Immigration

A few minutes ago the Government announced (or shortly will) a number of changes to the Skilled Migrant Category which take place today.

On the face of it, it looks quite radical but upon closer reflection isn’t quite the ‘revolution’ the Government will paint it (and no doubt the media will swallow) and is little more than a rearrangement of the deck chairs. Unless you are an international student hoping to get a resident visa in which case your future in New Zealand is looking fairly bleak...the Government is about to do to them what the Australians did to their international students a few years ago.

Our Government will today announce ‘cuts’ to migrant numbers but it appears to me to be a case of smoke and mirrors more than anything else in order to:

  • Take the wind out of the anti-immigrant NZ First party’s sails; and
  • Be seen to be taking additional pressure off Auckland house prices (some skilled migrants will now have to find jobs outside of Auckland); and
  • Close the doors on tens of thousands of international students that were promised open work visas upon completion of their studies by this Government as a pathway to residence. For most of them door has just been slammed shut in their faces and their futures lie outside of New Zealand.

The cuts, such as they are, are coming principally from the Family Stream and the overall target of migrants per immigration year is remaining about the same (at 85,000 – 95,000 over the next 24 months). So there is really no overall cut in substance.

The only real cuts apply to the Parent Category which sees numbers reduces from 5200 per annum to 2000. This is going to have the result of pushing out waiting times, but not the overall outcome for parents wishing to join their children in NZ.

From Wednesday 11 October all ‘classes’ of Skilled Migrants will have a fixed pass mark of 160 points. That is up from 100 for those with job offers and effectively means everyone will need a job offer to qualify.

As I have been pushing for some time now English testing is becoming mandatory. There will be exemptions but only for those from the USA, UK and Canada or for those with recognised qualifications from (and presumably studied in) those countries.

While this appears to be a radical increase in what is required to gain entry it really only impacts on those that have cannot squeeze out additional points by working for a period of time in NZ, work in an occupation which affords them previously unrequired bonus points, have family in NZ or a partner who can also get skilled work.

Our initial analysis, albeit without an enormous amount of information to go on apart from what we have learned from INZ; suggests most of our clients will be able to make an plan.

Those with recognised degrees (or higher) and even many with lower level qualifications such as tradesmen and Technicians will almost certainly still qualify if they get employment outside of Auckland and if they are in a relationship, get the partners out to work as well.

Unless...there is a twist in this tail.

We are reliably advised the Government recognises the potential negative impact on very high value migrants but who might not have degrees who have jobs in Auckland and a labour market screaming out for their skills – think IT specialists who are industry experienced but with no degree, CEOs without MBAs, senior management who came up through the ranks and the like who will be based in Auckland and have very high salaries and much to offer...INZ has been told to carry out some additional work which we expect to become policy in the next few weeks.

I understand that might involve additional bonus points being awarded for salaries over a certain annual level to compensate for the new pass mark. Or something which provides a similar and certain outcome.

The number I have in my mind is $70,000. No word on how those changes might translate into points but mark my words: such a change is designed to keep the Auckland job market open to those with high enough salaries (thanks to their being highly skilled) to warrant acknowledgment of the value they bring to the economy and the need for them in Auckland. Given it is the engine room of the economy what the Government is clearly trying to do here is to make sure that the finite numbers of skilled migrant places are taken up by the highly skilled and highly valued migrants and not recent international graduates with lower level qualifications. A bummer if your parents mortgaged their future in a village in Gujarat to send you to NZ for a better life but that’s Governments for you. I have spoken publically about the ‘tsunami’ of Expressions of Interest that will result (already is) in thousands of lower skill level applicants swamping the ‘pool’ for some time and telling anyone that would listen that change will be forced upon the Government if they do not act.

Well, they have.

Perhaps, when the Minister of Immigration was publically quoted, in regards to the tens of thousands of international students looking for a resident visa, ‘they won’t get residence’ recently, he wasn’t joking. He knew the Government was about to pull the rug out from under their feet.

I hate to say it but I told you so. It was so obviously going to have to happen or the Skilled Migrant Category would collapse under the weight of these applicants.

My advice to those from the English speaking world all this change really suggests to me is:

  • You’ll need to get a job offer outside of Auckland unless you can pick up bonus points; and
  • Qualifications are back in vogue and will be more important than they have been in recent years;
  • Government will find a way within the next few weeks to provide a pathway to 160 points for those on higher salaries than ‘average’ with jobs in Auckland

For existing clients, we will be back in touch with you within the next few hours to explain how these changes affect you.

Until we can tell you more...

Iain MacLeod

Managing Partner, IMMagine Australia & New Zealand

Teacher Shortages Starting to Bite

Posted by Iain on July 15, 2016, 3:28 p.m. in Education

One of the unexpected consequences of Auckland's house price values and population increase in the past few years is an emerging shortage of teachers.

It is, by all accounts, really starting to bite.

Population growth has meant the government has set aside more money for construction of additional schools, classrooms and teachers particularly in, but not limited to Auckland.

The problem schools face is that many of our own local graduates are accepting jobs outside of Auckland, where on a teacher's salary they can afford to get into the housing market, something which is only going to be a dream for many young and single teachers if they stay in our neck of the woods. 

Operating a national pay scale, it matters not where a Teacher is employed in the public sector (which accounts for over 95% of all schools) but how qualified they are. So an Auckland based teacher who begins on an annual salary of around %55 000 earns the same as the teacher at the other end of the country where the cost of living is significantly lower. Average house prices in Auckland are around $900 000. The average house price across the rest of New Zealand is around $500 000. You get the picture.

Until a few years ago we were advising most teachers that get to work as a teacher without a Residence Visa or that precious work visa was possible but usually took many months to secure roles. We had a few coming through but we advised most to be very cautious and realistic about the barriers and the time frames they could expect and the uncertainties of achieving the residence dream if they were teaching.

Most schools (still) prefer locally trained teachers so ironically there has been a relative shortage of experienced teachers for a number of years; but it was the schools rather than the usual 'chicken and egg' situation surrounding jobs and work visas as the cause.

As a company, IMMagine has until recently advised our pre-primary, high/secondary and tertiary level teachers to use Australia as the 'back door' to New Zealand. We have been able to secure NZ Resident Visas off the back of Australian Permanent Residence Visas for a number of teachers. This means when they get off the plane they have full work rights and the schools will talk to them and if not offer them full time and permanent roles then perhaps as 'relief teachers'. If they cannot find anything then they could go and do whatever else they needed to in terms of work to put food on the table.

We have this year however had two high school teachers (one from Singapore and one from South Africa) secure full time and permanent teaching roles without visiting New Zealand (both got jobs in Auckland).

We are now representing a teacher from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who has been denied a visa to take up a job offered at an Auckland High School. The position he was offered was eventually filled locally after many months but the school has another vacancy going unfilled all year they have offered him.

Many schools are now reporting fewer than 5 applicants per vacancy advertised. 

How times have changed. Only four years or so ago the Ministry of Education was putting off those from overseas making enquiries about coming over as they said there were fewer teachers leaving the profession (caused by, it was believed, the global financial crisis where higher perceptions of job insecurity meant many were staying in their jobs rather than moving on).

This doesn't mean desperate school principals are standing at the Auckland Airport arrivals hall with some "Teachers Wanted!" signs, but this increasing shortage is real and presents opportunities for some teachers where few existed even 2-3 years ago.

We will likely not stop advising our clients to use the Australian 'back door' pathway as landing here with a Resident Visa trumps even a job offer and the whole NZ visa process to negotiate if a teacher finds a job. It is all about minimising risk and there is no substitute for the certainty of the Resident Visa in the hand!

Until next week...

Iain MacLeod
Southern Man 

Skilled Migrant Time Bomb

Posted by Iain on June 11, 2016, 12:10 a.m. in Immigration

As a little boy I had an intense interest in politics.

My favourite Uncle who had himself run for Parliament was, I suspect, partly responsible for that interest and we had many a conversation where he pitted his mid-40 year old conservative wisdom with my ten year old love for communism.

I will never forget a piece of advice he gave me if I ever ran for elected office. "Remember Iain, there are two Governments. The elected Government and the permanent Government." Permanent Government being the bureaucracy.

I never imagined that I'd end up by making my living helping people to fight their way past this permanent Government. And observing up close the relationship between them and the elected Government.

To some extent he was quite right but in other respects he was wrong.

Right now a potential crisis is unfolding in New Zealand's Skilled Migrant Programme and the (elected) Government is refusing to listen to the permanent one.

Within two years this crisis is going to hit the Government hard, yet they refuse to acknowledge they have a looming issue despite the obvious staring them in the face in the form of research carried out by the immigration bureaucrats. To that you can now add Treasury.

I have read a number of papers released under the Official Information Act which clearly demonstrate that there is real concern within the bureaucracy that Government policies in the area of export education is dumbing down the skilled migrant category. This is because there is a massive marketing machine (both public and private sector) encouraging international students to invest tens of thousands of dollars in low level, low grade New Zealand qualifications because they have the promise of a work visa at the end and a pathway (in theory) to a Skilled Migrant Resident Visa.

There are several big problems with this.

The sorts of jobs many of these students are likely to get once they complete their very expensive qualifications are not skilled because they tend to be entry level, do not attract points toward residence and they have not been warned by either the Government, the tertiary Instructions peddling these products or their agents (unlicensed) representing them in markets such as India. They will only find out once they have completed these very expensive local courses and I suspect they will leave New Zealand justifiably bitter at having been sold a lemon.

Those that succeed are, most of the time, getting marginally skilled jobs of questionable value to New Zealand. The two occupations that top the list for the number of skilled migration approvals today are Retail Managers and Chefs. In both these areas the risk of fraudulent job offers grows and an entire industry where big money will change hands as desperate foreign graduates realise their predicament try and buy jobs will emerge. Anecdotally it already has.

There are literally tens of thousands of such students in New Zealand today. I understand more than 40,000 in Auckland alone.

Immigration statistics show that these students are consuming an ever greater percentage of the finite and capped skilled migrant places available each year.

What's the problem with that you might ask (I understand senior Ministers are asking the same thing)?

Right now policy settings demand the significant majority of skilled migrants possess skilled job offers.

Each year there are 27,000 resident visas (with a 10% variance) available to Principal Applicants, their partners and children. That translates into around 10,000 Principal Applicants and 10,000 skilled jobs up for grabs.

Right now if you have a skilled job you will be approved residence all other things being equal.

So what happens in two years when we might have 20,000 Expressions of Interest for people with job offers sitting in the pool? Right now they are all selectedl. 

Which ones do we  grant residence to? Right now it has to be all of them.

If we decide to only select half (so we don't double migrant numbers from current levels) should it be those that have got jobs as Retail Managers, the Chefs and the Secretaries or the experienced Engineers, IT workers, Trades people that New Zealand is so desperate for?

Right now there is no distinction - 100 points equal selection irresepctive of the job offered.

What about all those with false job offers?

The Government could turn around and double the annual intake and issue twice as many visas.

The Prime Minister said this week (as he always does) that current migrant numbers are about right. That suggests no appetite for doubling the numbers.

Auckland has a housing crisis. Too many people arriving and not enough houses being built. Much of this is being blamed on foreigners even though the cause is largely more New Zealanders staying put in NZ and more New Zealanders coming home, particularly from Australia. This has become a real political problem and there are politicians calling for a cut in migrant numbers (there are those that never let a few facts get in the way of a few votes).

This volume will be dialled up next year during the election cycle.

So Prime Minister, what is your plan when in two years the demand for the current number of places doubles or triples and many of those applying are Retail Managers and Chefs rather than Engineers and Builders and Software Developers with ten years of practical experience?

How do you choose between them all when you only have 27,000 places up for grabs?

Senior immigration industry leaders, including me, have been warning that changes have to be made now especially to what is being offered to international students. Export education is worth as much to NZ as an export each year as IT is in terms of exports at close to $3 billion a year. Clearly it is worth preserving and developing but not at the cost of either New Zealand's reputation or if it starts excluding better quality skilled migrants.

I have no issue with offering students a study to work to residence pathway but we need them to be studying the occupations we are critically short of in Engineering, IT and potentially, Trades.

Equally the question has to be answered which migrant adds more value to New Zealand; the 23 year old with a one year Diploma in Business who gets a job as the Manager of a Retail Outlet or the 35 year old Quantity Surveyor with ten years of industry experience?

When places are rationed the Government has to decide.

If that means we incentivise international students to study what New Zealand employers really need rather than what turns into a quick short term buck for NZ then for me there is no contest. The market will respond by offering students who want residence a course that offers the greatest chance of securing that outcome by offering such courses. Everyone wins.

It is a potential time bomb. When the Government has been warned it will explode within the next two years you'd you think they might sit up and listen to those of us who are right there looking at it and providing the evidence that it is real.

While in my experience of politicians and bureaucrats the bureaucrats often do get their own way there is scant evidence the current crop are.

It does not bode well for the Skilled Migrant Category.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man Letter from New Zealand

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