LaurentLore Corporate Edition
May 2017
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In This Issue
Serious changes In Immigration
Work Visa Changes
The Need To Strategise
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"I would like to thank James and Simon for the tremendous effort and advice of working through the complex issues of getting approved visas for my family.  You had a great understanding of my case which I am sure helped with the positive outcome. I will be forever grateful and will endeavor to continue using your legal knowledge in future."

John Tom, NZ Citizen

"Following a recommendation from a friend, we contacted Laurent Law for help. Right from the start Bill and the team at Laurent Law were supportive, understanding and highly knowledgeable of the complexities of immigration law...Bill has guided us to ensure that we have provided the right information at the right time to the right people to achieve a successful result. We are sure that it is the advice and the guidance we've received from the Laurent Law team that has made all the difference between success and rejection in our daughter's case and look forward to her being able to make a life as a valuable member of NZ osciety and as a reintegrated family member along with her two children."



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Serious changes in immigration are afoot which will affect whether you can retain your migrant employees.


  The Government wants to be seen to be controlling the supposed flood of migrants and "putting Kiwis first"  in the employment space. Come August, the Skilled Migrant Residence policy will be shifted to focus on what are deemed to be higher-quality migrants. At the same time, Essential Skills Work policy will shift too. Proposals for this are up for discussion at the time of writing.

If you have migrant workers now, then these changes could have a big impact on whether you can keep them. If you are thinking of hiring from overseas, you may have to make some tough decisions. You have a stake in planning a pathway to Residence for your key staff. If that is so, then planning starts now.



Before explaining the changes, it is first necessary to understand the measures being used. Jobs are classified using the ANZSCO  database into 5 Skill Levels. Level 1 requires a degree qualification or 5 years' experience, down to Level 5 which expects little beyond completion of high school. Immigration New Zealand will deal with occupations in 2 groupings:
  • Higher Skilled: Levels 1-3 (managers, professional, trades and technical; and
  • Lower Skilled: Levels 4 and 5 (service and clerical workers, labouring).
The ability to acquire both Resident and Work Visas will soon be tied not only to the Skill Level of the job, but also to the salary paid. The new Skilled Migrant scheme commencing on 14 August sets 2 threshold salaries (annual figures based on a 40-hour week):
  • $48,859 p.a. or $23.49 p.h. - below this level, the job cannot be accepted as Skilled Employment for Skilled Migrant Residence; and
  • $73,299 p.a. or $35.24 p.h. - above this level, any job (even "unskilled" jobs) is deemed to be Skilled Employment.
We anticipate that this will have a dramatic impact on many people who consult us about applying for Residence, because their salaries are significantly below the $49K mark even though, up till now, they could claim Residence points for their job.

Work Visa Changes

Eligibility for Work Visas is also to be tied to the same salary bands. Although the Essential Skills Work changes are still at consultation stage, my attendance at an industry/INZ consultation in Wellington 2 weeks ago strongly indicated that the income-related breakdown is non-negotiable.
"Higher skilled": Starting from the top, anyone earning above $73K will be able to apply for 5-year visas, and their job will be assumed to be skilled. This could open the door for many occupations which currently struggle to get recognition as skilled work - such as heavy machinery operators or some in high-risk, high-paying roles in construction.

"Mid-Skilled": Next, those in the $49K - $73K band whose job is ANZSCO Skill Level 1 - 3 will continue much as before, with the ability to get up to 3-year visas. We may lose the existing option of a 5-year visa for those earning over $55K.
"Lower Skilled": Below this, though, things are tougher. Anyone paid less than $49K can only get a 1-year Work Visa each time, up to a maximum of 3 years. After that it appears that they must leave New Zealand for a 1-year stand down period before they can apply for a further Essential Skills Work Visa. Alternatively they might be able to switch to a different class of visa. The same applies to any worker in a Skill Level 4 or 5 job earning up to $73K.
In addition, these groups of people will no longer be able to sponsor their partner for an open Work Visa, or have their children at school here as domestic students. This would probably make it unaffordable or unacceptable for workers to have their families here as visitors. They would either have to resign themselves to splitting the family up for several years - or not come here at all.
This will further hurt the hopes of an employee to upskill to Residence later:
  • Any plan for advancement to a salary over $49k must be completed within the 3 years.
  • Spending 3 years in NZ without family here will automatically weaken any claim that the applicant's relationship with their partner is still genuine and stable, if they should try to include them in a future application for Residency.
In my view there is a real risk of social dislocation arising out of a number of solo workers, usually male, passing their time here without the steadying influence of their accompanying family.

The Need to Strategise

The Minister claims that the aim of the changes is to make it clear to those in lower-end jobs that there is no pathway to Residence for them.  INZ Policy people appear to have taken their lead from the approach in places such as the Emirates where there is no way to get permanent status.
Some say that this is going to disrupt a number of key sectors including manufacturing and tourism/hospitality, because people will be discouraged from even coming to work here; or else employers will be hard pressed to afford higher salaries.  The official response so far has been that it is up to employers to upskill their staff so that they can be paid more and qualify for longer-term visas.

In our view, it is necessary to urgently review what your migrant staff are being paid, and the jobs that they do, in order to work out how you can retain your good people.  In particular, many overseas workers hang in there with the eventual hope of Residence.  If their salaries remain below $49K then they either need to apply for Skilled Migrant Residence immediately (before August), or they may have to go home. 
Also, now might be a good time to apply for extensions to existing Work Visas under the old rules in order to at least buy a few more years on a new Work Visa.
We are available to work alongside you in order to assess what you should - or can - do.

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