Immigration policy has been overhauled,
shutting the door to an estimated 10,000 hopeful immigrants and costing
the Government $9 million in refunded fees.
The changes see the general skills
category scrapped and replaced with an overhauled skilled migrant
category with a new points system.
Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel
said the most "significant change in immigration policy in a
decade" would hit many people immediately.
There is a backlog of more than 20,000
applicants under the current system who will be caught up by the
legislation that takes effect from tomorrow.
Of the 20,000 current applicants at
risk of being lapsed, those already in New Zealand would be better off
than those applying from overseas.
"They will be distinctly
advantaged, the ones in New Zealand, particularly those that already
have a skilled job offer... they will go to the top of the list,"
Ms Dalziel said.
The Government introduced two bills
immediately after the announcement - the Immigration Amendment Bill and
the Immigration Amendment Bill (No 2). It intends passing the second
bill under urgency this week, with the major changes taking effect from
tomorrow. It will apply retrospectively.
Ms Dalziel estimated up to 10,000 of
those caught by the new legislation would not meet new priority criteria
and their applications would have deemed to be lapsed.
Refunding their application fees would
cost the Government $9 million.
"The backlog is going to be
prioritised and those that meet the priority will continue to have their
applications processed... the rest will be lapsed," Ms Dalziel
Many of those who applied would have
never gained successful employment and were "going to fail".
"There will be those who will be
disappointed... but I believe it would be worse to bring people here,
delay implementation for two years and then knowingly bring people here
The points system was flawed because it
gave people false hope.
The main change means those seeking
residency under the general skills category will no longer have the
automatic right to have their application considered under the points
In the future, potential immigrants
would have to express an interest and if they are deemed worthy by
immigration officials then will be invited to apply. Those who do not
meet the grade will have no right of appeal.
The potential immigrant who clears the
first hurdle would then work their way through a revamped points system.
"There is no point bringing
talented and skilled people into New Zealand only to see that talent and
skill wasted through unemployment or underemployment," Ms Dalziel
Ms Dalziel did not believe the changes
would lead to the numbers of people coming to New Zealand drying up.
Almost $2 million would be spent
enticing people to apply for residency.
The Government has a target of 45,000
migrants a year. Of these, 60 per cent come in under the skill/business
category and it is the general skills category which would be changed to
the revamped skilled migrant category.
The new points system would include
bonus points for those with skills that were in short supply in New
Zealand and for potential immigrants going to jobs outside Auckland.
Ms Dalziel also said there would be
tougher screening of those expressing an interest, meaning many
applicants who misled authorities would have no right of appeal.
The changes would also mean fewer
people who qualified for residency would end up in dead-end jobs.
"These changes are designed to
ensure migrants who are selected because of their skills and talent are
set up to succeed not destined to fail. New Zealanders do not want to
see skilled migrants driving taxis, cleaning offices and cooking
hamburgers," Ms Dalziel said.
The new categories and points system
would come into force later this year or early next. In the meantime an
interim category would fill the gap left by the dumping of the general
To qualify, people would require 29
points and a relevant job offer.
Ms Dalziel also signalled further
changes to toughen up medical tests and further changes to the investor
category in August.
Last November the Government tightened
up the language criteria and is facing a legal challenge over parts of
the retrospective nature of that decision.
Ms Dalziel said the sudden nature of
today's law changes and announcements were necessary to stop a flood of
Further tinkering with the points
system was not the answer as New Zealand would have remained a