Changes to the points structure of the Skilled Migrant category in August 2017 have made it more difficult for those seeking to be granted Residence based on employment. These changes followed an increase in October 2016 of the points required for selection of an Expression of Interest under the Skilled Migrant Category, to 160. The October 2016 changes were made by a then National Government, arguably under a level of political pressure on the issue of immigration.

However a more restrictive approach adopted in August 2017 by the National Government and remaining unchanged under the current Labour Government, may be setting the bar too high. In particular, the approach after August 2017 places stricter rules around how skilled employment and work experience may qualify for points.

Before the October 2016 increase in the number of points required to 160, it was the case that applicants scoring 140 points or more had the possibility of being granted Residence, without a job offer. Due to the way the points system was structured, to be granted Residence without a job offer commonly meant that applicants needed to claim points for work experience or qualifications in an area of Long Term Skill Shortage. Applicants with work experience and qualifications in an identified area of Long Term Skill Shortage could secure Residence, without needing a job offer in New Zealand. This was of significance, given the difficulties associated with securing a job offer for many migrants who are located overseas, as many New Zealand employers want to meet with their potential staff member in person before they make an offer of employment.

Jobs in fields such as engineering and ICT appeared on the Long Term Skill Shortage List prior to October 2016 and while they still remain on the Long Term Skill Shortage List at the present, the increased points and post-August 2017 change to the structure of the Skilled Migrant requirement means that a job offer is now required.

There does seem to have been a reduction of the numbers of those in the following occupations, which appear on the Long Term Skill Shortage List, being approved Residence. The writer identifies the following changes from INZ statistics, from a) 1 April 2015 – 31 March 2016, b) 1 April 2016 – 31 March 2017, and c) 1 April 2017 – 31 March 2018.

  • Civil Engineer. a) 116, b) 122, c) 61.
  • ICT Business Analyst. a) 122, b) 125, c) 63.
  • ICT Systems Test Engineer. a) 68, b) 53, c) 11.
  • Quantity Surveyor. a) 101, b) 89, c) 35.
  • Software Engineer. a) 337, b) 288, c) 142.

Therefore it may be the case that an unexpected side effect of the changes to the Skilled Migrant category, which have effectively removed the ability to qualify without a job offer, have resulted in a reduction in the number of highly skilled migrants being granted Residence.

It may, of course, also be the case that the more restrictive approach adopted since August 2017, makes it more difficult for not just those working in the occupations identified above to be approved, but other occupations as well. Overall, the total number of migrants approved Residence in each of the time period identified is a) 13,975, b) 13,160, c) 6,376.

It may be viewed as a loss for New Zealand, that the number of both skilled migrants in the group identified and more generally, has fallen away somewhat. Others may view it positively, but the writer would suggest that with well documented shortages in areas such as construction and given the value of skills in ICT, they may need to explain why this is so.