News & Thinking

2019-2020 – Immigration Changes – Past, Present and Future….

Contributed by:

Kathryn McKinney
Partner

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Kathryn McKinney


It has been a busy year for Anthony Harper’s new immigration team.  There have been a lot of immigration law changes.  Here is a brief overview, and also a summary of what we are likely to see in 2020.

March 2019 – Mosque attacks

These horrific attacks resulted in the government introducing a special residence visa category for the victims and their families.  Our team has been very busy helping several of these families.  Most of them have now been granted residence and, we hope, can now continue to rebuild their and their families’ lives.

September 2019 – NZeTAs for all visitors to New Zealand

From 1 October, anyone visiting New Zealand (except Australian citizens and those already with visas) must obtain an electronic Travel Authority before travel.  The eTA costs $9 if applied for by a phone app.  They can be processed within 10 minutes, although it is recommended that travellers allow 72 hours for processing.  Over 500,000 eTAs have been issued so far.

October 2019 – Increase in salary for Talent (accredited employer) visas

On 7 October, the minimum annual salary level for a Talent (work-to-residence) visa, to work for an accredited employer, increased from $55,000 to $79,560.  Our team were very busy submitting applications prior to the increase to ensure that as many employees, as possible, were not affected.  The increase was not unexpected, so we also helped a number of employers become accredited before the change.

November 2019 – Changes to the occupation (ANZSCO) classifications

The tool, which Immigration New Zealand uses to assess job skill, called the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) changed at the end of October.  INZ will continue to use the old version of ANZSCO, until mid-way through next year.  However, in the meantime, some jobs, such as Personal Care Assistants being paid at least $25 per hour, are now deemed to be “skilled”.  This is allowing some migrants, who were previously ineligible, to apply for residence.

All year – Visa processing delays

There have been significant delays in processing Skilled Migrant Category residence visa applications.  Many applications are sitting in a queue for more than 12 months.  We have been helping employers and employees extend work visas to allow employee to keep working, whilst the employees wait for their residence visas.

Also, there have been many delays with partnership-based applications.  This is due to significant confusion over the correct application of the immigration policy, especially for couples in arranged marriages or where they have not lived together for very long.  We’re very hopeful that this problem will soon be resolved.

What is going to happen next year?

February 2020 – Parent category re-opens

The Parent Category will re-open, allowing people to sponsor their parents to permanently live in New Zealand.  However, a sponsoring child will need to earn at least $106,080 for three years, prior to sponsoring a parent.  There is also likely to only be 1000 places, each year.

June 2020 – Wage/salary is determinant for length of work visa

INZ is proposing to cease using ANZSCO as a way of assessing work visas, from mid-2020.  Instead, skill level will be assessed on the basis of remuneration.  At this stage, it seems that migrants in jobs paying $25 or more per hour will be eligible for three-year visas.  Under the current law, the job would also need to match with a job that is deemed skilled under the ANZSCO tool.  Therefore, this change should make matters much simpler.

It is also proposed that migrants earning at least $25 per hour, and working outside of the main cities (Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin) will not need to pass a labour-market test before obtaining a visa.

Throughout next year – sector agreements

The government is intending to negotiate agreements with the aged care, meat processing, dairy, forestry, road transport, and tourism hospitality sectors.

It is proposed that the agreements will only cover certain occupations, but will be compulsory across each sector.

Employers will be expected to show how they will improve wages and conditions for New Zealanders.  In return, there may be benefits for the employers and employees working in those sectors, such as an exception to the labour-market test requirements or longer visas.

Let us know if you need help

New Zealand’s immigration system is going through a period of considerable change.  The changes, the processing delays, and the half-completed and proposed visa changes mean it is very confusing for both employers and employees.  If you or your team need any help or want to chat through the changes, please contact our specialist immigration team.

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