The new regime of Skilled Migrants Category (SMC) is likely to affect thousands of people who are in New Zealand as migrant workers or international students.
The changes are a response to concerns that the current system does not effectively prioritise migrants with skills and salary levels.
The proposed changes would introduce the use of salary levels and strengthen the use of work experience to define skilled employment; and realign the points system to recognise highly skilled migrants better.
Those planning to seek permanent residence status after completion of their study or work experience ranging between two and three years would find it difficult to do so.
Many Chefs, ethnic restaurants and cafe managers could also find their jobs excluded from the SMC with the introduction of a new minimum salary or wage level and skilled-based experience.
The current scenario
Currently, to claim points for skilled employment, applicants must have a job (or job offer) in an occupation at the Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) Level 1, 2, or 3. The focus is/was on occupation not on the skills needed to perform that job.
There are examples of migrants in highly paid positions who are unable to use the SMC because their job description matches a low-skilled occupation under the present criteria. An Area Manager in a fast food franchise does not qualify for residency in comparison to a motor mechanic or a baker.
The proposed changes introduce an additional requirement of a minimum salary or wage level. The suggested new minimum salary range is from $47,486 to say $57,000 for 40 hours of weekly work.
This would exclude migrants in lower-income jobs from being able to apply for residency. This change would mostly affect migrant’s workers working around $30,000 per annum.
Migrants earning $70,000 or more and applicants with postgraduate qualifications and skilled workers with experience will gain additional points.
Immigration New Zealand may require skilled workers, regardless of their qualifications, to complete at least three years of continuous employment in New Zealand. This would also apply to professionals such as chefs.
What is the aim?
Under the proposed changes high salary, skilled work experience and higher-level of qualifications would be given greater preference in the points system.
Gurjinder Singh is a Licensed Immigration Advisor and an Enrolled Barrister & Solicitor (NPC) based in Papatoetoe, Auckland.