Proposed SMC changes could affect thousands

Proposed changes to New Zealand’s Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) would negatively impact on the chances that thousands of lower skilled workers have of moving to New Zealand.

Last month, New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, proposed a number of changes to the SMC in an effort to ensure that foreign nationals with the highest skill levels are given priority for permanent residency. The following changes have been proposed:

– A minimum wage would be established and wage levels would be defined to assess skilled employment. A proposed minimum salary range from NZ$46,000 to NZ$57,000 (approximately £26,540 to £32,897) would be introduced.

– A new requirement for a minimum of three years’ work experience in a field relevant to the job offered would be introduced. Formal qualifications/training would not be considered to meet this requirement.

– The points system would be realigned to favour highly skilled workers by removing bonus points that are not closely aligned with migrant labour market outcomes. Points available for work experience gained in New Zealand would also be reduced.

Immigration lawyer Aaron Martin of NZ Immigration Law believes that these proposed changes to the SMC are a “done deal”.

“The government is now set to pursue quality over quantity,” he said. “These changes are going to make it more difficult for those who planned to secure residence after completing a course of study. From our research, we estimate more than 27,000 migrants who are currently on the pathway towards trying to achieve residence will be affected.”

Hospitality workers in tourism hotspots such as Queenstown, Christchurch and Auckland would also likely find their jobs excluded from the skilled category with the introduction of the new minimum salary/wage level.

More than a third (35 per cent) of current New Zealand visa applications are lodged under the SMC category.

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Article published 10th January 2017