Thousands of 'critical' workers will not meet threshold for residency under new system

An immigration advisor says the changes to the immigration settings are "very controversial" and will see thousands of "critical" workers struggle to get their residency. 

Immigration Minister Michael Wood announced the resumption of the Skilled Migrant Category visa in October last year which the Government hopes would attract more workers.

But immigration advisor Katy Armstrong told AM on Friday "thousands" of migrants will be impacted by the new settings. 

"I think the bigger issue is we're about to enter a period where there's going to be a whole lot of people who are not eligible for residence at all," Armstrong told AM co-host Melissa Chan-Green. 

"Forget about delays, they're just not going to cut it because the points have all been raised and we're about to have another shift away from even the current point system to a new point system where a whole swathe of people are going to be left out in the cold."

Armstrong said migrants in the trade industries will be affected the most under the new system. 

"We're sort of moving to a weird back-to-the-future scenario where PhDs will be valued much more highly than somebody with 15 years work experience, but just doesn't happen to have a degree level or higher qualification, it's very controversial," she said. 

Armstrong said New Zealand needs tradies and making it harder for experienced workers to migrate will exacerbate already existing shortages.  

"It's just been so weird, last year when we opened the borders or even pre-opening to everybody we opened to so-called critical workers who were earning $40.50 but then almost as soon as they were in, the goalposts moved again," she told AM. 

"You can't get residency now on just having $40.50 nor will you be able to in the new scheme moving forward. So there are a lot of very vulnerable people in New Zealand on temporary visas, all doing the right thing, working really hard, significantly in those trades where we need them the most." 

Another issue facing people applying for a skilled work visa or residency is the time it takes. 

One person, who wished to remain anonymous, told Newshub they need their qualifications assessed by NZQA but have been told they won't have the results until November. 

Armstrong said NZQA is a "slow process" which can take up to four months. 

"We used to be in a position where we had to have the result to apply, but now we can apply without the result, so that is a concession," Armstrong said. 

"However, it's a very uncomfortable situation for people to be in, which is to fork out a lot of money, apply for an immigration application without having that NZQA result, it's unnerving for people." 

National MP Erica Stanford told AM later on Friday the current system doesn't take into account people's experiences.

"Basically, what happened after Michael Wood gave 200,000 people residents, is he pulled the drawbridge up, made it harder to get residents. The point system has made it harder and in the middle of this year, it's going to become harder again," Stanford said.

"People with trades who don't have a degree or earn 1.5 times median wage will never get residence in this country and that's a problem because we're not including their experience when we calculate how valuable they are."

National MP Erica Stanford.
National MP Erica Stanford. Photo credit: AM

But Immigration Minister Michael Wood disagreed saying workers in trade roles get picked up on the green list.

"That's completely wrong, we're actually providing more residency pathways than we've ever provided. We gave 140,000 people residents last year and in most previous years it's been 40,000," Wood said.

"Many of those trade roles are picked up by the green list process. If they don't come through in the skilled migrant category, that's the way that we provide access to people to settle in New Zealand and give their skills."

This copy was updated to state that Armstrong is referring to the Skilled Migrant Category visa list not the Green List.

Watch the full interview with Katy Armstrong in the video above.