New Zealand’s Immigration Overhaul: Key Changes for 2023-2024
As 2023 draws to a close, New Zealand’s immigration landscape is set to undergo significant changes that will affect employers and migrants alike. From the launch of the Green List (Work to Residence) Visa to an increase in median wage requirements, these policy shifts could reshape the future of immigration in the country. Principal Immigration Lawyer Aaron Martin breaks down what these changes mean and how to best prepare for them.
Introduction of the Green List (Work to Residence) Visa
For workers earning double the median wage or working in Tier 2 occupations on the Green List, there’s good news. If you were in New Zealand during the COVID-19 pandemic and meet these criteria, you can start counting your required two years of work experience from 29 September 2021. However, be wary of the caveats:
- Employers must be accredited.
- English language requirements must be satisfied.
- The job must align with a Tier 2 occupation if that’s the basis for your application.
Some applicants may need wage adjustments to meet current median wage levels.
The Restrictive 6 Point Skilled Migrant Residence System
This new system will replace the existing one, lifting the cap on the number of residence visa approvals. The catch? The criteria have tightened so much that fewer people will qualify. The Immigration Department’s projections are telling:
- 764 applications expected for 2023/2024
- 1906 for 2024/2025
- 2867 for 2025/2026
The system prioritises those in registered occupations or those who can become registered. It also acknowledges only Bachelor Degrees and above, and roles paying 1.5x the median wage or higher. A notable detail is that older visa holders may face an effective age cut-off of 53 if they rely on acquiring three years of work experience before applying.
The Double-Edged Sword of 5-Year Work Visas
At face value, the introduction of 5-year work visas seems like a boon for businesses. However, there’s a catch: If an employee fails to secure residence by the end of the visa period, they must leave New Zealand for a year before reapplying. Employers must plan strategically:
- Determine early whether the employee can secure residence.
- Decide on a replacement strategy, whether it be another international worker or investing in training a replacement.
The Rising Tide of Median Wage
The government’s decision to continually raise the median wage is a clear indication of its indifference to the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. The annual increase of nearly $2 per hour has a ripple effect:
- Employers recruiting international workers will need to offer higher wages.
- Existing employees will likely demand pay parity.
- Increased wages lead to higher costs for employers, which are then passed on to consumers.
The government’s mandate for Immigration New Zealand to annually adjust the median wage, solely based on Statistics New Zealand data, should be reassessed. It is one small thing that a government can do to try and remove some of the inflationary pressure that is driving up costs to the New Zealand public.
My Advice to Employers and Work Visa Holders? Get Expert Advice
Don’t navigate these intricate immigration waters alone; expertise is invaluable in such a volatile landscape. If you or your business is grappling with these upcoming changes, consult one of our experienced immigration lawyers at NZIL today. We can offer targeted advice and strategic solutions that align with your specific circumstances and objectives.