What is the change? Immigration New Zealand has announced changes to its lists of shortage occupations for purposes of exempting foreign workers in those jobs from labour market testing requirements.

What does the change mean? Several occupations in the oil and gas industry and other professional roles, including accountants and orthopedic surgeons, will no longer qualify for the Immediate Skills Shortage List. Two occupations in the information technology field have been retained on the Long Term Skills Shortage List. Employers should review the complete lists when planning foreign workforce needs for 2016.

  • Implementation time frame: Changes to the lists take effect in March and May 2016.
  • Visas/permits affected: Essential Skills Work Visas; Skilled Migrant Visas.
  • Who is affected: Foreign workers applying for Essential Skills Work Visas and for residency under the Skilled Migrant category, as well as the employers supporting these applications.
  • Impact on processing times: Foreign applicants in jobs that are removed from the skills-shortage lists may be required to demonstrate that their employer has met the labour market test requirements for a work visa. The foreign applicant may also need to demonstrate additional qualifications or work experience to qualify for residence.
  • Business impact: The changes will mostly affect companies employing foreign workers in the oil and gas industry, as several jobs in that sector will no longer be considered shortage occupations.

Background: The Government regularly updates its Essential Skills in Demand lists to ensure that foreign workers are only occupying jobs that cannot be filled by the resident labour force. Foreign workers applying for Essential Skills Visas in jobs on the Immediate Skills Shortage list can avoid labour market testing as long as they meet the qualifications of the particular job. Migrants applying for residency earn points if they are working in jobs on the Long Term Skills Shortage list.

Beginning March 2016, seven occupations in the oil and gas sector will be removed from the Immediate Skills Shortage List, including chemical plant operator, occupational health and safety advisor, gas or petroleum operator, production manager, geologist, safety inspector, and geophysicist and petrophysicist. Additionally, accountants and several occupations in the health and social services fields will be removed from the list. Four occupations will be added to the list, and several farming occupations will be removed from the list in May 2016.

On the Long-Term Skills Shortage List, the roles of telecommunications engineer and telecommunications network engineer will be retained as shortage occupations, and social worker and statistician will be removed from the list.

A complete list of changes can be viewed here.

BAL Analysis: Employers should review the upcoming changes and consult with their BAL team regarding how the shortage lists affect employment of foreign national employees.

This alert has been provided by BAL Australia. For additional information, please contact

MARN: 9683856

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