The proposed immigration changes the government recently have announced is looking to close the door to residency for many of what the government call “lower-skilled” workers by raising the salary threshold to $78,000 or $37.50 per hour based on a 40-hour working week for Work to Residence work visas. This would affect occupations such as Truck Drivers, Scaffolders, Concrete workers, and many, many more.

The proposal goes on to say that implementation of this new salary could come into effect in August 2019.

For a lot of migrants in NZ, gaining employment with an Accredited Employer is vital as it may be their only chance at obtaining NZ residence. The alternative residence option is normally the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC). However, there might be many reasons why a migrant cannot meet the criteria for this category – a lack of English ability or not having an ANZSCO skill level 1-3 occupation and required salary would be the main issues.

The government is saying that they no longer want low skilled workers to have a pathway to residency unless that are paid at least $78,000 which, in the governments mind, then makes the lower skilled worker considered as high-skilled. I’m sure many employers would agree that a salary is not the only measure of an employee’s skill.

As an example of how this will affect a migrant worker would be this – a scaffolder can only get three one-year Essential Skills work visas. How are they going to get to NZ$78,000 within three years? They are not. They may have been able to get to $55,000 within the three years but not $78,000. Therefore, the pathway to residence will likely be firmly shut for this migrant worker.

It has been mentioned that Premium Accredited Employers could potentially obtain three-year Essential Skill visas for their workers even though they are considered low-skilled. However, this would only be for positions in a region that is identified as having tight labour markets and that do not have significant infrastructure constraints. Not very helpful at all.

 

Then why would migrant workers come to NZ in the first place? If residency is not on the cards, which is the end-game for a lot of migrant workers, what’s the point? Residency is an important incentive for NZ to attract and retain their migrant workers. Employer’s are mostly very supportive of their migrant workers gaining residency  their migrant worker play a big part in their employer’s lives and are treated like family   By servery reducing the ability for these workers to obtain residency, I suspect we will see a decent drop in our migrant workers numbers as NZ cannot compete with the salary and conditions offered by the likes of Australia and Canada and in the current economic climate, with low unemployment, this is bad, very bad for NZ business.

There is much more to this proposal that I have discussed. Visit https://www.mbie.govt.nz/have-your-say/consultation-on-a-new-approach-to-employer-assisted-work-visas-and-regional-workforce-planning/ to have a read for yourself.

 

Cameron Gray

LIA 201301155

MARN 1791819