The soon-to-be-launched 2021 Resident Visa category is still far from ready and appears to be based mostly on wishful thinking. INZ wants a simple solution to the COVID-induced labour shortage, so they’ve simply made one up.
The recently announced 2021 Resident Visa category has everyone fizzing over the prospect of being one of the lucky 165,000 who get fast-tracked for residency, but as usual, the level of detail leaves something to be desired. Even though INZ claims they’ve been working on this scheme for months behind the scenes, instructions are “still being finalised,” leaving many people wondering exactly how it’s all going to work.
An industry steering committee of immigration advisers and lawyers like myself were given the opportunity to submit questions to INZ about the new policy, but the answers we received were brief, confusing in some instances, and preceded by the disclaimer that they were “tentative only” and therefore “subject to enhancement.”
Not exactly reassuring. First of all, where did they even get this 165,000 number from? It’s my feeling they’re far underestimating the number of eligible applicants, as I’ve yet to come across anyone who didn’t qualify.
I’m assuming they added up everyone in the various queues paid $27 an hour or more: those on approved work visas, those in the resident EOI pool, and those whose residence applications are in but still unprocessed. What this figure doesn’t factor in is, how many people have subsequently had their pay increased to $27 but have not interfaced with INZ?
Remember, they announced the median wage increase to $27 an hour in December 2020, nine months ahead of the new Resident Visa. A lot of people have already gotten that pay rise anticipating that the skilled migrant category would reopen, rather than a new category be created.
The new Resident Visa will be prioritised
Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has already promised that the majority of applicants will be granted residency by the end of December 2022. Either INZ is hiring en masse or pulling resources from other areas, which will then impact processing in those areas. Minister Faafoi seems to believe that because INZ intends to turn these around quickly, not as many temporary visas will be needed and they’ll have excess capacity.
But many people will be eligible for multiple pathways and may choose to lodge multiple applications. Skilled migrants earning $27 an hour or more on a valid work visa represent a whole group of people who weren’t eligible before but now will be. But they haven’t told Immigration about their earnings because they don’t need to, unless they’re applying for the Resident Visa as well.
INZ has said it will continue processing residence visas using a priority matrix, and if an applicant has two applications under assessment concurrently, their 2021 Resident Visa will be prioritised. Depending on your situation, this may not always be in your best interest.
If you have applied under the Residence from Work category and you are entitled to Permanent Resident Visa, it appears that entitlement will not be available if you choose to proceed under the one-off 2021 Resident Visa.
Will changing circumstances change my eligibility?
The biggest worry for would-be applicants is, if they need to change to a different type of work visa because their circumstances change during the application process, or they lose their job, will they still be eligible? We don’t yet know how changes in circumstances post-29 September but pre-application will be dealt with or considered. INZ has been asked this question but responded with conflicting information.
And don’t believe what’s described on INZ’s website is how it’s going to be, either. The site page was written well before any of the rules were decided, and the final visa criteria – which is what will actually be applied – have yet to be released, even to immigration officers. That means they haven’t trained their officers on how to process this new category! We also noticed that the scarcity lists and content changed over the course of the day they were released, so don’t be lulled into thinking the process will be simple because it likely won’t be. After all, this is the Labour government we’re talking about.
Should SMC/RFW applicants apply under the new category or ‘wait it out’?
INZ says it’s up to you, but I recommend applying under the Resident Visa category as well. It’s like the lottery: You’ve got to be in it to win it, so apply for both, even though it will mean more application fees and paperwork. The potential reward of residency is worth the investment, and the lifeline is there.
Imagine the Titanic’s gone down and you’re Kate Winslet, floating along on a wardrobe door. A lifeboat is coming. Do you abandon the door for the lifeboat or do you paddle over to the life raft, climb in, and bring the door with you? The life raft could reach capacity or start sinking, so don’t let go of your options.
Make sure you’ve got as many opportunities to stay afloat as possible, because you never know. The application process may be longer than you bargained for, and you may in fact be better off in another queue and regret your decision to jump ship.
My advice to residence applicants
Because nothing is set in stone, my best advice would be to hold tight and try to meet all criteria for eligibility in the meantime. Any process you’ve got under way, continue to meet the criteria if possible. Don’t abandon other pathways to eligibility too soon and put all your eggs in one basket. What looks like the best way to go may not be. And make sure that whichever pathway(s) you choose, there’s not some fishhook you don’t know about.
Until we get clear answers, I’m saying to clients: Carry on and file your Residence from Work category. Get your 24-month talent visa and then apply for your 2021 Resident Visa. Be strategic in your thinking and cautious in your actions. Keep as many pathways to residence open as you can until you have absolute certainty that you are over the line on one of them.
Need expert legal advice on the particulars of your situation? Aaron Martin at New Zealand Immigration Law can assess your case and help identify any potential problems – and possible solutions. Contact NZIL