IMPACT – MEDIUM
What is the change? Following a growing trend toward protectionist immigration policies by governments around the world, the New Zealand Government has proposed a “Kiwis first” campaign that will place new rules on employers seeking to hire skilled foreign workers.
What does the change mean? Foreign workers wanting to obtain residence by way of the skilled migrant category must be paid at least NZ$48,859 per year. If a migrant is paid NZ$73,299 per year, his or her job will be considered skilled, even if it is not on the list of skilled jobs. The points system will also be reformed to reward individuals with skilled work experience and recognised post-graduate qualifications, and younger workers, ages 30-39. Additional restrictions and a review of temporary migrant work settings are also planned.
The government is also considering changing the essential skills work visa category. This is the most popular category for entry to New Zealand. The proposals include introducing remuneration bands to align with the new salary thresholds. Additionally, lower skilled work visa holders may only be able to stay in New Zealand for a maximum of three years, at the end of which they must spend at least 12 months outside of New Zealand. Finally, lower skilled migrants may not be able to bring their families with them to New Zealand.
Background: New Zealand’s Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse announced the “Kiwis first” policy Wednesday, saying it “strikes the right balance” between reinforcing that Essential Skills work visas are temporary in nature and encouraging employers to hire more Kiwis and invest in training them.
BAL Analysis: The restrictive proposals came a day after Australia announced it will eliminate and replace the subclass 457 visas and after the United States announced a comprehensive review of H-1B visas – both primary routes for businesses to access skilled foreign labor. New Zealand has been a magnet for immigrants in recent years – the number of foreign nationals obtaining essential work visas spiked 11 per cent from 2015 to 2016. BAL encourages businesses, individuals and other stakeholders to provide feedback during the consultation period which closes 21 May.
This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in New Zealand. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.
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