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Immigration Policy Overview

The New Zealand Government operates three different immigration streams, within which lie a number of separate categories or application types. The three main streams are defined as:

  • Skilled/ Business (Skilled Migrant, Investor and Entrepreneur)
  • Family Migrant (Partners, Parents, Children and Adult Siblings)
  • International/Humanitarian (Refugees, Domestic Violence Victims)

Each Category carries with it a complex and somewhat frustrating set of rules, which if we were to explain fully would encompass an entire website in itself. The following is a broad overview as to how each of the main categories is structured, and the process involved with a potential application.

Skilled Migrant

The Skilled Migrant Category process offers two pathways to permanent residence. There is a third being a "Work to Residence" pathway for those employed by "accredited" employers with salaries of NZ$55,000 to illustrate another option. But that is another story.

Expression of Interest

Those that are interested in obtaining residence must first file an Expression of Interest (EOI). It is not possible to apply directly for residence. This EOI can be carried out online or in manual (paper) form if the applicant prefers.

Thereafter there a number of difference classes of skilled migrants depending on their respective points score:

Class 1 - Those claiming 140 points which includes an offer of skilled employment.

Class 2 - Those claiming 140 points which does not include an offer of skilled employment.

Class 3 - Those claiming 100 -135 points which includes an offer of skilled employment.

Class 4 - Those claiming at least 100 points which includes a claim to six years of work experience in an area of absolute skills shortage.

Class 5 - Those claiming at least 100 points which includes a claim to two or more years (but less than six) of work experience in an area of absolute skills shortage.

Class 6 - Those claiming at least 100 points which includes a claim to a recognised qualification in an area of absolute skills shortage.

Class 7 - Everyone else claiming at least 100 points.

Full Time

30 hours/week for 12 months = 1 year full time (1,560 hours)

Part time

15 hours/week for 24 months = 1 year full time (1,560 hours)

OR

30 hours/week for 12 months at more than one job = 1 year full time (1,560 hours)

Processing

Those who have a claim to 140 points (with or without an offer of employment) will be automatically selected from the pool i.e. Classes 1 and 2.

Those with offers of employment or current employment and who have claimed between 100 and 135 points will be ranked and selected if they are required to meet the Government's annual target of skilled migrants. Most are likely to be selected. This is Class 3.

Those claiming 100 points or more without job offers may be selected and invited to apply based on criteria issued by the Minister every six months. This is covered by classes 4 - 7.

Currently the criteria for Classes 4 - 7 to be selected are:

  • a) Class 4 - Including in the points claim 15 points for work experience in an area of absolute skills shortage; and if that doesn't provide the numbers the Government needs;
  • b) Class 5 - All those EOI's which include in the points claim 10 points for work experience in an area of absolute skills shortage; and if that doesn't provide the numbers the Government needs;
  • c) Class 6 - All those EOI's which include in the points claim 10 points for a qualification in an area of absolute skills shortage; and if that doesn't provide the numbers the Government needs;
  • d) Class 7 - Everyone left in the pool.

Every fortnight or so the Government identifies the highest scoring applicants based on the "passmark" set for that period and selects them for further processing.

There is no right of appeal if your Expression of Interest is unsuccessful even if the mistake was made by INZ.

Immigration New Zealand will then seek to establish whether the points claimed is 'credible' (as high numbers of applicants get things very wrong) and then passing the case to another team of bureaucrats to verify some aspects of the application to see if the applicant has a reasonably solid claim to the points they have claimed and there are no false claims e.g. to jobs, for qualifications, etc. 

If they conclude the case looks solid the applicant will be invited to apply for residence. If they don't because Immigration New Zealand believes deliberately misleading information was presented the application may be declined or if INZ believes there was no intention to mislead the application but the points claimed appear to be wrong, the EOI may be processed and the applicant invited to apply for residence on a case by case basis. More on this below.

So if the pass mark has prima facie been achieved the INZ will invite the applicant to apply for residence.

Invitation to Apply for Residence (ITA)

Only at this stage will the applicants claim to points be assessed against actual policy and an applicant's points claim verified. The fact that an applicant received the Invitation to Apply for Residence means very little in terms of outcome. Processing of the actual hard evidence presented once the applicant has been invited to apply for residence is the important part of the process.

Class 1 applicants who have offers of skilled employment will once their points claim has been tested against actual immigration policy be granted residence permits pursuant to the Immigration Act 2009 once any further verification on the hard evidence presented with the actual residence application is carried out. This basically means that a resident visa will be issued and the applicant will need to present evidence that they have worked in a skilled job for three months following the granting of their resident visa. If they do not present such evidence within seven months their resident visa may be revoked.

Class 2 applicants will also be invited to apply for residence if they have the "pass mark" but they will then follow one of three pathways. Each will likely involve an interview with an immigration officer to determine the applicant's ability to settle into New Zealand (something that the INZ used to do years ago and abandoned because it proved inconsistent and unwieldy):

(a) Approve and grant permanent residence; or

(b) Grant a work visa for up to 9 months allowing the applicant to travel to NZ, find skilled employment and having worked for three months have their resident visa issued (with the possibility of a one off three month extension if required); or

(c) Decline the application.

Class 3 are treated and processed the same as Class 1 i.e. there is no interview and residence will be granted once the points claim has been verified and processed to approval.

Classes 4 - 7 are treated and processed the same as Class 2 i.e. there is ultimately an interview and residence or a six month work visa will be granted once the points claim has been verified and processed to approval.

This pathway is outlined in the flowchart below.

 

The pass mark and the factors influencing it

The Government still wants around 27,000 skilled migrants and their spouses and children to migrate here each year under this category.

We have established that somewhere between 25% and 50% of people who have filed online applications have over claimed their points or been over awarded points by INZ at the Expression of Interest stage. This means then that the Skilled Migrant Category pool has at any time a reasonably high percentage of people contained within it who will not in fact score the points that they think they have.

The fewer people that now apply and lodge EOI's the more places become available for those that do. It is a self correcting system. The Government hasn't dropped the number of migrants it wants. The fewer people that apply for the available places, the lower the pass marks go. When it drops it encourages people to apply. That in turn may push it up again! Solution? You have to be in the pool to take advantage of a supply and demand mechanism.

Long Term Skills Shortages List

The Government has a list of occupations the Immigration Department deem to be in continuing acute and chronic under-supply across New Zealand.

If an applicant is offered a job for which their occupation is deemed to be in chronic shortage, a work visa/permit can be issued, subject to their proving qualifications and experience in that field, registration if applicable with the appropriate local institution, character and health for a period of 30 months. Once the applicant has been working for the company for two years, they can then apply for residence, so long as they are under the age of 56 and comply with health and character requirements.

Residence is technically available to migrants who are in occupations on the Long Term Skills Shortages List under Tier II outlined in the Skilled Migrant Category flow chart above.