New Zealand toughens requirements for skilled immigrants

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has announced new policy today

The announcement by Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse comes after Australia said it would scrap a temporary visa for skilled overseas workers and U.S. President Donald Trump signed an order he said should help American workers whose jobs are threatened by skilled immigrants.

"No immigration system is flawless, but the proposed changes should help get migrants who are better suited to our employment needs, while at the same time valuing the skill levels of New Zealand workers", chief executive Kirk Hope said.

The changes to be introduced later this year include introducing a minimum income requirement, making it more hard for family members to join visa holders and limiting the amount of time seasonal workers are allowed to stay in the country.

The remuneration bands - $48,859 for low-skilled and $73,299 for high-skilled - to categorise the temporary work visa aimed to attract higher-skilled workers, who could then be allowed to claim points when applying for permanent residency, Woodhouse said.

We need to fix the immigration system to reduce the number of low-skill migrants coming into the country, while still bringing in the skilled workers we need. Anyone earning more will automatically be classified as highly skilled. "We have 139,000 Kiwis out of work and many are desperate to get a job".

Mr Woodhouse also revealed the Government is proposing that those eligible for a temporary "Essential Skills" work visa but who earn less than the threshold will still be able to work here, however they will be limited to a maximum time in country duration of three years.

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New Zealand First leader Winston Peters attacked the changes as "tinkering" and "just a dog whistle to show they're doing something".

The changes come a day after the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the Coalition Government would give priority to Australian workers by replacing 457 visas.

Addressing that sentiment in his speech in Queenstown yesterday, Woodhouse said some regional jobs could not be filled by Kiwis because of reasons including location, skills, training, attitude and drugs and alcohol abuse and "the fruit needs to be picked, the grapes harvested". "And I completely understand why that might be a concern", he told the Herald.

New Zealand has been experiencing record levels of net migration in recent years as economic growth outpaced Australia's, meaning fewer locals moved across the Tasman.

However, in October Woodhouse announced changes that meant those coming to New Zealand under the skilled migrant category would need 160 points before getting residency, rather than 140.

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