Government announces Skilled Migrant and Parent Category: key things to know

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In an effort to address severe labour market shortages, the Minister of Immigration announced the return of the Skilled Migrant Category Residence (SMC) ‘points’ system and the Parent Category.

The new points system and category was announced on 12 October 2022.

We have prepared a summary of the announcement detailing what we know, at this stage.  

The Skilled Migrant Category will reopen

What we know now: From 9 November 2022, existing and new SMC Expressions of Interests (EOIs) will be selected if they qualify for 160 points. After 9 November, and up until the next selection date of 18 January 2023, applicants must achieve an additional 20 points, equating to a total of 180 points, to be selected.

What this means: As was the case under the SMC pre-March 2020, for Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations code (ANZSCO) Level 1, 2 and 3 occupations, the median wage will be used to determine whether an applicant’s employment can be utilised for points purposes. For Level 4 and 5 occupations, an hourly rate of one and half times the median wage, will be used.  

Transitioning to a new SMC

In time, following a consultation period, we understand that there will be a revamp of the SMC. The consultation period closes on 18 November and information about the proposal can be found at Future of the Skilled Migrant Category New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations code.  

Unlimited numbers of residents

What we know now: The government has proposed that there be no limit to the number of skilled migrants who may be granted resident visas. Historically, numbers have been capped around 45,000 to 50,000 per annum.

What this means: This ‘uncapping’ of resident visas represents a relatively significant policy reversal. Previously, an annual cap on numbers was maintained to try to curb perceived unsustainable population increases.

Compulsory departures from New Zealand

What we know now: The government is also proposing that all migrants, who do not meet the new SMC or other residence criteria, will need to depart New Zealand for at least 12 months, after three years. At present, this requirement is only in place for people earning less than the median wage.  

What this means: Depending on the finer details of eligibility under the new SMC category, this could cause a significant headache for employers. They may find themselves needing to recruit a new set of temporary migrant workers, every three years. 

Parent Category

What we know now: The Minister also announced the recommencement of the Parent Category. Selections of EOIs under the Parent Category have been suspended since 2016.

What this means: This provides some relief, as existing applications will, eventually, be processed. We say eventually, as while that the government has increased the annual maximum number of parent resident visas to 2,500, there will still be a significant backlog given there are close to 9,000 applicants in the existing EOI pool.

And so: It could take three or four years just to clear the existing applications, based on these numbers.

What happens to existing Expressions of Interests?

What we know now: Existing EOIs will be selected from the current queue from 14 November 2022, and further selections will occur every subsequent three months.

Look out for it: A new ballot system will replace the previous system where applications were selected in chronological order. Under the ballot system, applications would be selected from the EOI pool at random.

Special thanks to Partner Nicola Tiffen and Senior Solicitor Reve Anstis for preparing this article. For advice on how to navigate the new visa pathways, please contact a member of our Immigration law team.

Disclaimer: the content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.

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