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New Zealand Migration Updates 2020 - 2021

Changes in the Essential Skills, Student Visa pathway and visitor visas for partners of NZ residents citizen are among the major changes. Official info from NZIS being shared at no cost.

Crispin Aranda

New Zealand Migration Updates 2020 - 2021

New Zealand migration outlook 2020

New Zealand has the lowest number of immigrants admitted among the three Commonwealth nations trough NZ’s points-based Expression of Interest scheme.

Expression of Interest held December 11, 2019 resulted in 917 EOIs – representing 2,079 individual - with 160 points or more in the Skilled Migrant candidate pool undergoing preliminary verification to determine if an invitation to apply for residency will be issued.

Selection from the EOI candidates is conducted usually every two weeks.

The overwhelming majority of EOIs selected (776) were from candidates onshore (already in New Zealand) with job offers.

From the 140 EOIs lodged offshore, 79 have job offers; 61 (without job offers) met the 160 points through presumably who are in the young are range, with the highest academic qualifications, with skilled work experience in a comparable job market and earned other bonus points, such as having met the requirements of their occupation which are on New Zealand’s Long Term Skills Shortage List.

The 2-year record of skilled migration shows a downward trend.  In the program year 2017-18, a total of 10,607 Skilled Migrant applications were received. Only 8,419 EOIs were approved.  Overall permanent residency numbers illustrate the same trend. 

From a total of 25,959 residency places (mainly skilled worker and family streams in 2017-2018), only 22,932 were approved.  The latest program year (2018-2019) the number of residency application shows a reduction from 20,603 approved from a total of 22,356 applications received.

In the Family-stream, the Partner category exhibited the same downward trend: 8,822 in 2018-19 from 9,568 in the 2017-2018 program year. The Parent-Grandparent category had been consolidated into just one (there were Tier 1 and Tiler 2).  Tier 1 – with increased income requirements for the son/daughter sponsor - resumes next month.

Official info shared from NZIS: About the Pathway Student Visa pilot

The Pathway Student Visa pilot was introduced in December 2015 to enable international students to study up to 3 consecutive courses on a single student visa for up to 5 years. The visa is only available for study with approved education providers and for some courses of study.

Pathway education providers

The Pathway Student Visa pilot will continue until January 2021 when it will become a permanent visa category.

Changes to the Pathway Student Visa in 2021

We are making 2 changes to the Pathway Student Visa when it becomes permanent in January 2021.

  1. Education providers will only be able to qualify to be a Pathway education provider if we approve at least 80% of the applications we receive from offshore students intending to study with them.
  2. We will update restrictions around study pathways that start with English language study so they are consistent with the English language requirements for international students set out in the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF) Programme Approval and Accreditation Rules 2018.

NZQF Programme Approval and Accreditation Rules 2018

All other criteria in the pilot will remain the same.

How the changes affect pathway education providers

No new education providers can become part of the scheme while the pilot continues.

Before the Pathway Student Visa becomes permanent in 2021, we will provide further information about how:

  • education providers can qualify to become Pathway education providers
  • current Pathway education providers can leave the scheme if they no longer meet the criteria.

We will also develop assurance processes to check that Pathway providers are meeting their obligations and share these with international education stakeholders.

Pathway Student Visa holders

If you already hold a Pathway Student Visa the changes do not affect you. The conditions of your visa stay the same.

If you have submitted an application for a Pathway Student Visa it will be processed as usual.

On 24 February 2020 the wage or salary thresholds for Skilled Migrant Resident Visas and Essential Skills Work Visas will increase.

Annual review of remuneration thresholds

Once a year we update the remuneration or pay rate thresholds for the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) Resident Visa and the Essential Skills Work Visa.

The new thresholds are based on the New Zealand median salary and wage rate of NZD $25.50 per hour (up 2% from last year) which is equivalent to NZD $53,040 per year for a 40-hour per week job.

NOTE. Changes to the income thresholds will not affect the duration or conditions of visas that we have already granted.

2019 review

We normally update the thresholds in November each year. This year we are updating them later so that workers and employers have more time to prepare for the changes. The changes come into effect on 24 February 2020.

Future reviews

In future we will continue to update the thresholds in November, but we will communicate the changes earlier.

New hourly rates for SMC Resident Visa applicants

From 24 February 2020, we are making changes to what an applicant applying for a SMC Resident Visa must earn to be awarded points for skilled employment. The annual salaries below are based on a 40 hour per week job.

  • Skilled employment in an occupation at ANZSCO skill level 1 to 3
  • Skilled employment in an occupation at ANZSCO skill levels 4 and 5
  • Pay rate to claim bonus points in an applicatio
  • If you were invited to apply for SMC before the increase

We will assess your application against the thresholds in place on the date your expression of interest (EOI) was selected.

For example, if your EOI was selected before 24 February 2020 and you were invited to apply after 24 February 2020, the old remuneration thresholds will apply, even though you were not invited to apply until after the new thresholds were introduced.

New hourly rates for Essential Skills Work Visa applicants

From 24 February 2020, we are making changes to what an applicant applying for an Essential Skills Work Visa must earn. The annual salaries below are based on a 40 hour per week job.

  • Mid-skilled employment in an occupation at ANZSCO skill level 1 to 3
  • Higher-skilled employment, including occupations at ANZSCO skill levels 4 and 5
  • Lower-skilled employment at any ANZSCO leve
  • Lower-skilled employment at ANZSCO Levels 4 and 5

If you apply for an Essential Skills Work Visa before 24 February 2020

If you apply for, or have applied for, an Essential Skills work visa and we receive your application before 24 February 2020, the old thresholds will be used to assess and determine your visa application.

If you apply for an Essential Skills Work Visa on or after 24 February 2020

Only new applications we receive on or after 24 February 2020 will be assessed against the new threshold.

The new thresholds will apply, even if the employment agreement was signed before 24 February 2020.

If you are applying for a further visa, this may mean the conditions or visa duration of the next visa could be different. For example, a chef paid NZD $21.50 an hour would currently be considered mid-skilled, as the occupation is ANZSCO level 2 and the pay is above the existing threshold of $21.25. If they applied for a further visa after 24 February 2020 they would be considered low skilled, unless their pay increased to above the new threshold of NZD $21.68.


Authors & Contributors

Crispin Aranda

Crispin Aranda

Crispin R. Aranda is an established International Visa Conselor and Immigrant Advocate. He is the president of IVC and is in several migration radio programs.

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