Simon Park, the founder & CEO of Immigration Trust shared his view on immigration via www.stuff.co.nz
Influx of immigrants unlikely to slow as National takes pole position.
A "layed back, relaxed, chilled out" lifestyle is why Vikar Singh loves New Zealand. Filling a skills shortage was his ticket in. As National stands to keep the helm for another three years, Singh is left appreciating that if he applied today, his path to residency may have been tougher.
As of August 28, migrants like him who came in under the Skilled Migrant Category no longer earn points for qualifying in an area of "absolute skills shortage", or for experience and qualifications in future growth areas, such as ICT and creative industries. This wasn't the case in 2014 when Singh took up a position in IT.
Hopeful immigrants will still be breathing a sigh of relief, however, with the alternative of a Labour-led government likely to have resulted in crackdowns of up to 30,000 fewer new arrivals annually.
New Zealand has experienced record high immigrant numbers in recent years. Statistics NZ recorded net migration totalled 72,305 in the year to June 30, a figure which had been steadily increasing since late 2012.
With the election looking sewn up, National's changes to the Essential Skills work visa for temporary migrants and the Skilled Migrant Category policy are here to stay, as is the growth in numbers.
An Immigration spokesman said the Government's changes were not designed to affect the number of migrants coming in, but to improve the skill levels of permanent settlers and ensure lower-skilled temporary migrants were "clear about their future prospects in New Zealand".
One of Labour's key reasons for putting the squeeze on immigration was in order to fill jobs with New Zealanders, rather than immigrants.
The changes to the Essential Skills Work Visa policy was National's answer to this, being designed to keep New Zealanders were at the front of the queue for jobs while preserving the temporary labour necessary to keep economic growth ticking over. Those classified as lower-skilled, who earned less than the 85 per cent of the median wage, can only stay in the country for three years, after which they must spend 12 months outside New Zealand before they can be granted another visa in a lower-skilled role. Previously, partners and children could obtain work and student visas. Today, partners and children will need to meet the requirements for a visa in their own right.
For Simon Park, director of the Immigration Trust, the crackdown was not only a politically savvy move, but a smart one, with the dependents of many immigrants creating additional strain on education and health systems. However, despite the official line touting the new rules as upping quality without cutting numbers, Park said the result would be a decrease.
Figures from May showed there were just over 38,000 Essential Skills visa holders, and by setting the mid-skilled remuneration threshold at 85 per cent of the New Zealand median wage is expected to result in between 9700 and 11,800 of them classified as lower-skilled, all of whom will be covered by the new rule limiting stays to three years.
Singh was particularly concerned for those in the hospitality industry - which many migrants came to New Zealand to study - who he said would feel the sting of the new bands particularly strongly.
"People who are earning less than we get in IT will suffer," he said. "Immigrants can never be seen as a liability - we are always an asset to a country. We always contribute."
In addition, seasonal workers will have their visas limited to the length of their work, rather than 12 months.
- Sunday Star Times