Shifting goalposts

In August 2017, Immigration New Zealand (“INZ”) overhauled the Skilled Migrant Residence Visa and Essential Skills Work Visa Categories instituting key changes to policy. One of the most striking changes was the introduction of remuneration thresholds as a means of defining “skilled employment”[1] in the Residence Visa space, and for assessing the “skill band” of a Work Visa applicant’s job which in turn determines the duration of the temporary visa that can be granted.

The remuneration thresholds are reviewed annually in November based on New Zealand’s income data.[2] Since the announcement was first made, there have been two such reviews and each one resulted in an increase to the minimum income threshold for all skill bands, the latest adjustment coming into effect on 26 November 2018:[3]

Threshold for Skilled Migrant Residence Visa Applications From 26 November 2018 – present From 15 January 2018 – 25 November 2018 From 28 August 2017 – 14 January 2018
Skilled employment in an occupation at ANZSCO 1 – 3 $25.00 p/h or above (or the equivalent annual salary) $24.29 p/h or above (or the equivalent annual salary) $23.49 p/h or above (or the equivalent annual salary)
Skilled employment in an occupation at ANZSCO 4 – 5, or which is not included in ANZSCO $37.50 p/h or above (or the equivalent annual salary) $36.44 p/h or above (or the equivalent annual salary) $35.24 p/h or above (or the equivalent annual salary)
Threshold to earn bonus points $50.00 p/h or above (or the equivalent annual salary) $48.58 p/h or above (or the equivalent annual salary) $46.98 p/h or above (or the equivalent annual salary)

 

Skill Bands for Essential Skill Work Visa Applications From 26 November 2018 – present From 15 January 2018 – 25 November 2018 From 28 August 2017 – 14 January 2018
Mid-skilled employment in an occupation at ANZSCO 1 – 3 $21.25 p/h or above (or the equivalent annual salary) $20.65 p/h or above (or the equivalent annual salary) $19.77 p/h or above (or the equivalent annual salary)
Higher-skilled employment in any occupation (including those at ANZSCO 4-5) $37.50 p/h or above (or the equivalent annual salary) $36.44 p/h or above (or the equivalent annual salary) $35.24 p/h or above (or the equivalent annual salary)
Lower-skilled employment (for all ANZSCO levels) $21.24 p/h or below (or the equivalent annual salary) $20.64 p/h or below (or the equivalent annual salary) $19.76 p/h or below (or the equivalent annual salary)
Lower-skilled employment in an occupation at ANZSCO 4-5 $37.49 p/h or below (or the equivalent annual salary) $36.43 p/h or below (or the equivalent annual salary) $35.23 p/h or below (or the equivalent annual salary)

(ANZSCO refers to the Australia and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations, which is used by Immigration to assess the skill level of a job.)

As can be seen in the tables above, in a relatively short space of time between August 2017 and November 2018, the salary thresholds have increased relatively steeply. These shifting goalposts will undoubtedly make it increasingly difficult for hopeful Skilled Migrant applicants to be eligible to submit an Expression of Interest, and could abruptly shorten the visa duration of Essential Skills Work Visa applicants.

Whilst there is no escaping the new remuneration thresholds, the following tips may help to ease some of the other pressures you may be facing:

For the Skilled Migrant Category

  • If you do not have the minimum 160 points, consider looking for employment outside of Auckland so that you can secure an additional 30 bonus points. It might pay to have a conversation with your current employer to discuss options for a transfer to another branch outside of Auckland;
  • If you have a longer term temporary visa, one way to acquire sufficient points is to spend time building your New Zealand work experience but this could mean potentially postponing submitting your Expression of Interest by one to two years;
  • Claim points strategically by claiming no more than the minimum 160 points required, and limit points claimed for “skilled work experience” to only include New Zealand work experience and / or work experience gained relatively recently (as opposed to a long time ago);
  • Consider applying for a job with an Accredited Employer. While this will probably postpone your ability to apply for residence by about two years, the application process will be more straight forward and less stressful than the Skilled Migrant Category.

For the Essential Skills Category

  • Be thoughtful when selecting an ANZSCO Unit Group which you believe is a substantial match to your current employment. Avoid pitching your job against a Skill Level 1 ANZSCO Unit Group unless it is obviously a highly skilled job;
  • Apply for your new visa well in advance of your current temporary visa expiring to allow sufficient time for labour market testing to be undertaken by your employer;
  • To avoid unnecessary issues arising during the processing of this visa, ensure that the information in all of your employment documentation is consistent, including for example your Job Title as it is listed in your Employment Agreement, Job Description, Employer Supplementary Form and advertising materials;
  • As above, consider working for an Accredited Employer.

There is no question that it is now more challenging that ever to apply for job-based temporary and residence visas in New Zealand. Should you require our guidance  navigating through these challenges, feel free to book a consultation with us to discuss your options.

[1]           In the recent past, a visa applicant’s job description as it related to their chosen ANZSCO Unit Group(s) was the key yardstick by which “skilled employment” was measured. Note that an applicant’s employment also had to be on the (now defunct) List of Skilled Occupations at Appendix 6 of the Operational Manual.

[2]           Immigration New Zealand Operational Manual, Skilled Migrant Category, at Instruction SM6.20(j).

[3]           Immigration New Zealand website, News & Notifications,<https://www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/media-centre/news-notifications/skilled-migrant-and-essential-skills-visas-2014-changes-to-remuneration-thresholds>   (9 November 2018).

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This entry was posted in Citizenship, Immigration Appeals, Immigration Industry, Immigration Problems, Immigration Visas, Politics, Practice of Law. Bookmark the permalink.

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