The ability to apply for Residence based on employment is either a feast or a famine. Here’s why.

Recent History

For over 20 years, the main way to apply for Residence was through the Skilled Migrant points-based category. In mid-2020 Immigration stopped inviting people to apply based on Expressions of Interest that they had lodged in good faith. Those EOIs are still sitting there, and there has been no indication that they will ever be acted upon. If the Government is not going to do anything with them, will it give people their money back? No-one is telling.

Then, in September 2021, the “one-off” 2021 Resident Visa scheme was announced (“2021 RV”). It resulted in over 100,000 applications involving some 200,000 individuals, and so far about 30% of these have been approved. Technical issues, resourcing and bottlenecks in getting third-party information (such as NZ Police checks), mean that it will probably take more than another year for all these cases to be decided. The upshot is that two-years’ worth of places under the old NZ Residence Programme will eventually be filled by sometime later in 2023.

The 2021 RV scheme closed on 31 July. Right now, there are almost no job-based Residence pathways.

Skilled Residence – What Is It?

Immigration has recently unveiled the Skilled Residence (“SR”) policy opening on 5 September 2022. Not to be confused with the Skilled Migrant Residence policy, by the way. This is tied to the much-delayed Accredited Employer Work Visa (“AEWV”) system whose first phase opened in May. The 3-stage AEWV process is being criticised for adding layers of creaky bureaucracy and delay to the process of hiring a migrant worker, but we’ll come back to that another time.

The SR policy has 3 tracks toward Residence:

1. Straight to Residence – you must have a job in an occupation in Tier 1 of the Green List with an Accredited Employer. Tier 1 mostly includes engineers, medical professionals and IT specialists. In certain situations, self-employed contractors may also apply.
2. Work to Residence – you must have a job in an occupation in Tier 2 of the Green List with an Accredited Employer, and have completed 2 years of work in a Tier 2 Green List job since 29 September 2021. Tier 2 mostly includes health workers and technicians, teachers, and some trades workers.
3. Highly Paid – you must be in a job paying twice the median wage rate with an Accredited Employer, and have held a highly paid job for at least 24 months since 29 September 2021 while on a visa allowing you to work. The median wage is currently $27.76 per hour, so someone on a 40-hour week must earn over $115,500 per annum to qualify.

The Pendulum Swing

Here’s where the pendulum thing comes in. First of all the Skilled Migrant avenue dried up in mid-2020. There are 4500 or so existing applications left, being decided at the rate of only 100 or so a month at most (source: Migration Data Explorer). Then came the big bubble of 2021 RVs, and Immigration will be working through all of those for some time to come. The tap has been turned off there now too.

People cannot apply under the Work to Residence and Highly Paid categories of the new SR policy until 29 September 2023 at the earliest. They have to put in at least 2 years on qualifying Work Visas first. Only the Straight to Residence candidates can apply now. That is a valuable, but pretty narrow slice of the working population.

For the next 12 months, the ability to use employment as a step up to Residence is limited to a select few “high value” occupations. This comes right at the time when New Zealand industries are hamstrung by the lack of available staff, causing companies to turn away business and retrench, restaurants cutting hours and hotels shutting up rooms that can’t be managed.

Let’s face it, most people don’t move to another country just to work for a couple of years and then go home. It is a disruptive process, especially if there are other family members involved. Nor do people choose New Zealand because of the high salaries. They dream of settling in a safe, clean, quiet country where their children can grow.

If the chance of getting Residence is remote, many will not want to come here on Work Visas in the first place. The Government will probably get its stated wish to reduce reliance on migrant labour. That’s all very well if there are lots of New Zealanders lining up to take those jobs. But they aren’t. Unemployment has been at a record low level for months now, probably only just above the rate of replacement in a full employment model. The only foreseeable outcome of squeezing the migrant labour market is the contraction of economic activity, which will feed right into the recessionary pressures already at play.

To get the workers in to fill the jobs that locals are not there to do – or don’t want to do – a broad and accessible pathway to Residence must be opened. Unfortunately, that does not fit the ethos of the present administration, nor the agenda of the policymakers behind the scenes.

What Can I Do?

If you are an engineer, medical professional or IT specialist, book an appointment with us about applying under the Straight to Residence option.

If you are not, look at the job you are doing to see if it appears in Tier 2 of the Green List, which at least puts you on the road to Residence in a year or two. If your job is not there, think about whether you have any chance to get paid a salary of $115K or more.

If none of those options is open to you, there may be other ways to head toward Residence. For example, we have a great deal of experience managing visa applications sponsored by a New Zealand Citizen or Resident partner. It is surprising how often we encounter people who have never even thought about this route. There may be other ways to go which suit your background and skill set. We can bring a fresh perspective to your situation, and we may be able to recommend something new.