Govt announces skilled migrant median pay requirement to sit alongside qualification and occupation requirements; Proposes tweaks to temporary migration settings and South Island residency path

Govt announces skilled migrant median pay requirement to sit alongside qualification and occupation requirements; Proposes tweaks to temporary migration settings and South Island residency path

New Zealand’s immigration settings will be changed to include certain pay requirements for those seeking permanent residence under the skilled migrant category and for people in unskilled but "well paid" work, the government has announced.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has also proposed changes to temporary migration settings, including a three-year limit to be followed by a minimum stand-down period before a person can apply for another lower-skilled Essential Skills visa. He also announced that some South Island temporary migrants will be given the opportunity to apply for residence.

Following indications from Prime Minister Bill English that changes were coming, Woodhouse made the announcements in a speech in Queenstown on Wednesday. It follows an increasing level of political debate around New Zealand’s immigration settings, with annual net inflows hitting record levels above 70,000 in recent months. Read an overview of Labour’s stance, and comments from New Zealand First, further below.

Changes announced by Woodhouse also included making more points available for skilled work experience and some recognised post-graduate qualifications. Points for age will also increase for applicants aged 30-39 years old.

The changes will come into force from mid-August 2017. Read Immigration NZ's more detailed question and answer sheets on the announcements and proposals here.

Read the changes to permanent and temporary immigration settings announced by Woodhouse below:

Changes to permanent immigration settings include introducing two remuneration thresholds for applicants applying for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC), which will complement the current qualifications and occupation framework.

“One remuneration threshold will be set at the New Zealand median income of $48,859 a year for jobs that are currently considered skilled. The other threshold will be set at 1.5 times the New Zealand median income of $73,299 a year for jobs that are not currently considered skilled but are well paid,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“The SMC points table, under which individuals claim points towards their residence application, will also be realigned to put more emphasis on characteristics associated with better outcomes for migrants.

“Collectively these changes will improve the skill composition of the SMC and ensure we are attracting migrants who bring the most economic benefits to New Zealand.”

The Government is also proposing a number of changes to temporary migration settings to manage the number and settlement expectations of new migrants coming to New Zealand on Essential Skills work visas.

The changes include:

  • The introduction of remuneration bands to determine the skill level of an Essential Skills visa holder, which would align with the remuneration thresholds being introduced for Skilled Migrant Category applicants
  • The introduction of a maximum duration of three years for lower-skilled and lower-paid Essential Skills visa holders, after which a minimum stand down period will apply before they are eligible for another lower-skilled temporary work visa.
  • Aligning the ability of Essential Skills visa holders to bring their children and partners to New Zealand with the new skill levels.
  • Exploring which occupations have a seasonal nature and ensuring that the length of the visa aligns with peak labour demand.

“I want to make it clear that where there are genuine labour or skills shortages, employers will be able to continue to use migrant labour to fill those jobs,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“However, the Government has a Kiwis first approach to immigration and these changes are designed to strike the right balance between reinforcing the temporary nature of Essential Skills work visas and encouraging employers to take on more Kiwis and invest in the training to upskill them.

“We have always said that we constantly review our immigration policies to ensure they are fit for purpose and today’s announcement is another example of this Government’s responsible, pragmatic approach to managing immigration.”

Public consultation on the changes to temporary migration settings closes on 21 May, with implementation planned for later this year.

For more information visit:

Some South Island temporary migrants will also be given the opportunity to apply for residence under changes announced by Woodhouse:

“There has been a significant growth in the number of lower-skilled temporary migrants in the South Island who help fill genuine labour shortages and have become well-settled here,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“However, due to current temporary migration settings, many of these lower-skilled temporary migrants have no pathway to residence.

“Today’s announcement delivers on our 2015 commitment to provide that group of migrants in the South Island with a pathway to residence.

“The policy will allow eligible migrants to be granted an initial Work to Residence temporary visa, which would make them eligible for residence in two more years provided they stay in the same industry and region.

“Many of these migrants are already well settled in New Zealand and make a valuable contribution to their communities. The requirement to remain in the same region for a further two years after being granted residence ensures that commitment to the region continues.

“It will also enable employers to retain an experienced workforce that has helped meet genuine regional labour market needs.

“My National colleagues in the South Island have advocated strongly on behalf their constituents throughout the development of this policy, so I’m pleased the Government has been able to deliver on our commitment to enable this cohort of migrant workers to remain in their communities.”

To be eligible, temporary visa holders must:

  • Currently be on an Essential Skills visa for a job in the South Island and have been on one in the South Island for five years or more.
  • Be 55 years old or younger
  • Hold current employment that is full-time and meets market rates and their employers would need to have no significant adverse record with the Labour Inspectorate or INZ.
  • Meet standard residence health and character requirements.

For more information, visit

Labour looking at student vs skilled worker points gap

Labour Party leader Andrew Little said earlier on Wednesday morning that better management of how work visas were awarded was required. Of the 42,000 issued over the past year, a lot were for occupations that could be done by locals, he said.

“We’ve just got to accept the fact that at the moment, with so many migrants setting in Auckland, Auckland is absolutely packed to the gunwales now, absolutely chocka. The price we pay for that is congestion, it’s overcrowded schools, public services that can’t do the job anymore,” he said on TV1.

About 130,000-140,000 migrants had settled in Auckland over the past few years, Little said. “It is putting too big a strain on the city.”

“No question about it – we have to cut back. If only to say that we can have a bit of a breather and catch up, build more houses, sort out and making sure the schools aren’t overcrowded, sort out our transport so that we’re not having the sort of congestion that we have in our biggest city.”

Labour is yet to release a detailed immigration policy. However, it is understood to be researching changes to the skilled migrant points system among other policy changes.

In particular, Labour is said to be looking at the dichotomy between how former student migrants who find a job in New Zealand after completing their study may have an easier path to meeting points requirements to stay because they studied in New Zealand, than a more highly skilled person applying from overseas with a job offer in an area of absolute skills shortage.

Labour has increasing concern about an increase in the level of migrants – including permanent visa holders – employed in low-skilled occupations, with trends raising issues about the quality levels of inward migration.

Its immigration spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway has pointed to MBIE documents released under the Official Information Act showing the Ministry has noted that temporary migration is increasingly becoming a permanent feature of New Zealand’s workforce, with certain sectors increasingly relying on a ‘permanent pool’ of temporary migrant labour.

Labour is also said to be concerned that skilled migrant wages have been falling and that they are effectively undercutting wages in some industries, based on OIA releases from MBIE.

NZF: 'Reduce net immigration to 10,000 per year & make them work in the regions'

Meanwhile, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said immigration numbers needed to be reduced to near 10,000 net per year. Many skilled workers should be bonded to work in the regions for five years before they could relocate to cities such as Auckland, he said.

“They are fiddling with the issue while the plain fact is foreign workers will still be able to come here when employers claim they can’t get Kiwis," Peters said.

“We have 139,000 Kiwis out of work and many of them are desperate to get a job. Statistics show in the February 2017 year we had a record 128,800 migrant arrivals and in the same period 71,300 more migrants arrived in New Zealand than left."

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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Job offer will be a bit more expensive as "unskilled job" with 73000 salary will qualify for points. Smart businesses and IRD will be happy about this.

So does this mean that a so called student working in a dairy/liquor store/ gas station for $3 an hour and a $10K a year "donation" to the business is up for a whopping pay rise?
Does Michael Woodhouse even have a clue about what's going on?

I can't see anywhere that specifically refers to $73k being contained within a valid, signed, employment agreement.

So I think it is safe to assume they only need an offer letter. Something I am sure the current employers can easily provide via a simple 5k "admin fee" being added to the current "donation"

PAYE payments and annual Tax return would tell the true story. Assuming immigration authorities actually check these things. Will reduce the paid by cash under the table rort but not the 'donation to the business in exchange for a job offer at an inflated salary to get a visa ' scam.

I assume they don't and wont check, it's not like they are checking now, otherwise we wouldn't have the dodgy dealings we do.

I fear you may be right. If WINZ disinterest in investigating the supplementary benefit payments scam is anything to go by.

Yep, if they did check, we would have sad faces on the news all the time pleading to be allowed to stay "because it was the consultant who was responsible".

How do you know we have "dodgy dealings"? Where does your evidence come from?

Three places.
1) Court cases - Even MSM manage to report on a few of them every now and then.
2) The fact that "chef" is on the long term shortages, and we have an "immediate shortage" in Jockeys, Farmers, Skydive instructors, and bakers.
3) Speaking to some foreign students, all of whom have "jobs", most of whom get paid, and none of whom pay tax.

Wrong. Tax return tells any story you want. Just get your mate to book a salary through his coy in your name. Pay the Paye of course, but no need to pay any actual salary at all. And yes, I've seen this done. Just more words.

Hi Alex,
You forgot to mention that these changes are not effective till mid-August 2017.

Thanks, there now. I've also put up the Q&As here. A bit more detail in them.


As expected - a small grain of sand to hold back the ocean.

looks like korean robots will replace the sun tanned foreigners who staff our servos. Being a local on the rock n' roll there's no way i'd work for less than $30 an hour even though i finished primary school at 9 years old.

I am sure you are not the only one.

If it was a genuinely skilled, in demand profession why would anyone be offering a salary of just $48k/year? Highlights just how ridiculous the system is. Also it should be banded on salary and age, it's expected a university graduate at the start of their career might earn $70k/year but a 50 year old well into his or her career on $70k would be much less beneficial for the country.

This is a little off point, but I think it says a lot about us as a country that we accept that a person qualified to do a "skilled" job can earn less than the median income, and we accept without question the existence of well paid not skilled jobs.

It is hardly encouragement for young (or old) people to go out and learn a trade. More so if it turns out it is cheaper to import skills than produce them at home.

Why would we 'question the existence of well paid but not skilled jobs'? It's the outcome of a supply/demand market operating efficiently.

A setup a new business, B setup a new business.
A offer B 100K wage for a manager position. B offer A 100K wage for a manager position.
Win Win

true.. IRD gets more tax, govt gets pretty employment numbers. business owner gets free labour, migrant gets residence.. no one is telling the truth because everyone gets what they want!

Does this mean that we shall be inundated by foreign health care assistants?

Even at the increased wage for aged care workers, the immigrant salary floor is too high and they will not qualify. Does this mean that when these worker's visas expire they will have to leave?

Do they qualify as skilled? If so they only need a small amount of extra income to get to the $49,000 odd required, or be sufficiently experienced to qualify for a higher salary rate.

It is not $49k aggregate, the hourly wage has to be $23.5/hour but I am not sure how that will be measured. I included my employment agreement in my residence application which had no dollar amount mentioned. My IRD papers only revealed my historical monthly income with no information on the number of hours worked.

It will be fun to watch how the hospitality industry reacts to these new announcements; even duty managers and sous chefs working in good establishments earn in the range of $20-22 per hour. You need to be at the top (head chef or general manager) of the food chain in that exploitative sector to make $24+ hour.

Now will cost slightly more for students as first they pay for job letter and will work on low or no pay and now what will happen is the cost of tax will go up, which they will have to reimburse back to the employer.

Also rich people can start business or tempt busineses to pay high salary (Of course only on paper) and get extra point.

Policies are created with loopholes.

That is an increased risk. I hope the Nats understand more compliance monitoring will be required following this move. Bringing such drastic policies changes without increasing the number of Labour Inspectorate leaves the system susceptible to fraud and deception.

... so , are Filippino cow squeezers and Indian courier fast & furious drivers going to be re-classified as skilled workers ... and be given a pretty decent pay increase on the rubbish they're being paid now ...

Or ... are Kiwi employers going to be forced to stop using cheap imported labour , and start jacking up their ideas , employing locals on a liveable wage , and offering some ongoing training ?

I'm going to hazard a guess and say not the latter.

Instinctively I'm thinking the same Noncents but they won't be able to increase visa worker wages to a higher level than Kiwis so I suspect they may have no option than to give preference to Kiwis.

If things were that simple why stop there. Let's just legislate everyone a minimum salary of $120,000 per annum tax free and all live like kings?

Or course, kiwi employers might move the production side of their business off-shore as the only alternative to going bankrupt. Or just close their doors and import alternative products from China. Or India. Or Vietnam.

Hm, clearly the problem in this "free" market is people can do what they want. It's socialist nightmare. Certainly Mao never had to put up with it.

The production side of kiwi businesses? Are you speaking to us from a time portal connected to ancient times?

Is it so unbelievable that Kiwi's are still able to manufacture some things inside NZ and be competitive on a world stage?

The reality is that the odds are stacked against us in terms of manufacturing.

We have no real natural commodities used in manufacturing. i.e. Minerals and oil.
We are as far away from the rest of the consuming world as you can be without being on a different planet. So transport is slow and/or expensive.
Our minimum wage and working conditions are positively Utopian compared to every other developing and third world nation, so can't compete on price.


One could argue we are great at manufacturing. We build sub-standard houses on prime bits of land then sell them to foreigners for an exorbitant profit.

It is certainly not easy, and yet I believe as a percentage of our economy we are better at it than the Aussies.

Amazing we can import stuff from halfway around the world, bolt pieces together, package them up and ship them back halfway around the world and hope to compete on price, double freight plus handling

I personally know of one of these !! Multi million $$ plastics injection moulder here (akld), that exports 80% of what they make to the likes of the US and all over the world. Multiple 40ft containers daily. And thats all I know....

I take your point Ralph but I believe the intention is to not bring in folk that are earning less than the median wage, assuming I guess that the higher wage is an indication of productivity/usefulness/skill shortage. BTW our median income is actually quite a lot less than $45k at about $32K before tax for all adults which is below the living wage and only just a bit more than the minimum wage for a forty hour week.
It certainly isn't our high wages that are preventing us from being (more of) a niche exporter of manufacturing excellence. Good example is Switzerland, just a bit bigger than us and an average income of about $90,000 yet they are selling manufactured products to the world and doing very nicely thank you.
It's probably a cultural thing but you just have to wonder about this "service economy" experiment. I don't know of anywhere that's got rich mowing each others lawns.

I agree with your points. That is why I don't think we should label the hard working folk up at the coalface and having a go "fat cats" and tax them out of existence. Any successful export business in NZ is up against the world (literally) with very little help.

Instead of focusing on how we can make a better standard of living for everyone in a world that doesn't owe us a living we spend our time talking about:

1. How everything is John Key's fault, or

2. How wealth is like a cake that falls from the heavens and the main issue is how I get more of this cake (no idea where it comes from or thought as to how to make it bigger), or

3. How we need "change", (the empty mantra), because we are "against" everything (no solutions) and not "for" anything, or

4. How foreigners are out to get our jobs and houses so lets have an election based on Xenophobia.

If you are a hard working business person in NZ the best things would seem to be to keep your head down until the revolution comes, when the ideologues will turn up, sink the boat, burn down the house and shoot the goose whilst pretending they are saving the planet.

At which point I guess you have to migrate.

Yes, it is hard to compete with the world and I have the greatest respect for our folk that succeed. My son is a recently qualified boat builder and their small yard here in the Far North is busy building custom power cats for New Caledonian and French Polynesian owners. It's a demanding job both physically and mentally with significant risks and modest rewards. I just wonder where we're going when I hear about 59 people on over $100K doing non-jobs at ATEED (Auckland council outfit) or the army of seat warmers at Fonterra HQ or just about everywhere you look. Many in useless or even counter productive roles. What's all that about, a system that penalises our real wealth creators and rewards the wasters and parasites.
I don't think immigration is the cause of or answer for our problems but Xenephobia is the irrational fear of foreigners - folk concerned about access to housing or jobs from immigration pressure are not being irrational IMHO.

We do sure have housing and jobs problems.

Our education system costs a fortune and produces a product few people want at a price nobody can afford. But it is the fruit of 30 years of public policy, endless politicking and expansion that shows no end as the western world swings to the more socialist end of the spectrum.

Our housing problems are not helped by high immigration but as you say immigration is not close to any primary causation. So I don't like the way the election is leaning toward who will blame most on foreigners. To blame foreigners for your woes and failings when they aren't the real cause is a little bit escapist if not irrational.

>"Our education system costs a fortune and produces a product few people want at a price nobody can afford. But it is the fruit of 30 years of public policy, endless politicking and expansion that shows no end as the western world swings to the more socialist end of the spectrum."

You could argue quite to the contrary, however, that too many young people are bearing the cost of training because companies are no longer willing to hire them out of high school and train them, as they were thirty or forty years ago. Instead, they're demanding degrees but the cost is being born in parts by the young and wider taxpayers.

You see a way higher price for this education in countries such as the USA than you do in more socialist countries, where a well-trained workforce has been viewed as a valuable contributor to the future of the country.

Re property and foreign investors, see the wider analyses available out there on the role of foreign investment in a number of markets around the world, and on the slow-down since China (in particular) has clamped down on capital outflows. And note that people are in the vast majority of cases asking for such policies in conjunction with changes of policy around tax and property investment, recognising the role of privileging property vs. other investments.

it's simply not useful to strawman people's desire for policy adjustments a la limiting foreign purchases to new builds, a stamp duty, or both (along with the other reforms).

It's stepping back in time in the conversation to when cries of xenophobia were used to silence any discussion of the role of foreign investors in markets around the world.

In simple terms the education product in this country is so unaffordable the only way they can get their "customers" to buy it is for the government to make billions of dollars of interest free loans to them.

A large portion of which won't every be repaid so will get dumped back onto the tax payer.

Yeah, agree. And I'd suggest the last thing we want to see is it go the way of the students' ability to borrow increases (via the government, in our case), the universities continue to escalate fees (while being run primarily as businesses) and young people become more and more indebted in order to get any job.

At the same time, degrees get devalued because the market doubts the rigour being applied by some universities and faculties - including vis-a-vis the increasing accounts of students being passed who shouldn't be, simply because they've paid a lot of money (cash for degrees, the market perceives) - then driving young people to seek Masters degrees and the additional cost they require in order to compete for jobs in the market.

So we end up with both education and housing being changed from something regarded as a good investment for the country and its future into business investments, at the ultimate expense of those following...

In the economics section of an encyclopedia set I have here from the 1970's it describes the established pattern of the cycle where you have a surplus of educated people but no jobs. The result is civil unrest, this educated underclass have the intelligence and motivation to pull it off. We march steadily toward that point, and keep importing the fuel via physically and culturally different people.

I saw an interesting doco. A guy in the 70s working as a stock broker and supplementing his income by working as a conductor on the subway at nights. This is based in the US. The financial service sector was lowly paid, then in the 80s the same guy is making squillions in the same job, doing the same thing.

Real workers are not rewarded like they should be. Money fiddlers are severely over compensated for performing magic tricks with photo copiers.

Agreed, kudos to your son. One of the unseen social and economic costs of immigration pressure on housing will be that it becomes harder for would be entrepreneurs to get started particularly in the main centers as the cost of living increases. And hiring truly productive people becomes harder and harder. This is particularly true of knowledge based jobs.

The global experiment with monetary policy just shows that increasing money supply increases the value of assets, not the growth of the real economy, where people produce products and services.

National's experiment with immigration is an ill-conceived short-sighted market distortion that did not need to happen.

Lol so my pizza delivery, or getting my Chinese meal I will have to fed ex it because the "chefs" are now offshore, not to mention the courier driver cant find my address on his GPS as he drives around india

Stop eating Chinese!

.. hey ... that's exactly the same advice Mrs Brown gave to her hubby , Len ... when he was mayor of Auckland ..

The cap was specifically set not capture Filipino cow sqeezers and their wives working 150 hours pw for 54k pa.
National couldn't possibly upset their rosy necked election funders could they?

The skill classifications are purely reliant on the employer's discretionary disclosures. A dodgy employer could introduce the following tweaks in the agreement:
a) Cow squeezer = Bovine technician
b) Courier delivery guy = Logistics worker
and get the job reclassified as medium to high skilled in the eyes of INZ. I am sure no case officer would venture out to the cattle field in the middle of nowhere or follow a courier truck (with the F&F tendencies of the driver you alluded to) to observe the actual role of the applicants.

reminds me of the Muldoon years and the wage freeze, our boss promoted the whole company so we could have a pay rise.
there are always loopholes, and sometimes those in charge leave them big enough to drive a truck through it

More likely they will end up working every hour god sends down, and then some to make up the numbers

This all seems pointless to me until we start asking where do we want our population to be long term. Do we just want to ramp up then cut down our immigration every economic cycle and just see what happens long term?
New Zealander's need to be asked what sort of population size do we want in New Zealand and why?

what? you want to ask the riff-raff?

According to this comments on this site, people want "change". They have no idea what difference it will make, the features it has, the price they might pay for it or the potential for unintended consequences. They just want it regardless. Om.

So of the unintended consequences of the current government?? You might want to choose something more effective than a paper dart to scare everyone into voting for the status quo.

LOL - brilliant.

The very reason we *must* have change is that the current government is a known quantity (that we can't live with - so the story goes). If that is true then how can the consequences be unintended?

The very foundation for unintended consequences is unknown variables. If they can't even detail the specific changes that this "change" they speak of will improve anything then one of these is true;

(a) the opposition does not represent any useful change (its a mirage or a lie), or

(b) the change is in fact unknown, which means the foundation exists for unintended consequences.

I suspect (b) because the word change here is used like an empty headed mantra.

I'm talking 2008 and the consequences now of having installed a National govt then, I thought you would have understood that. Oh well.

Mate, you need to take a break from coughing up straw men.

Small is beautiful...

As expected from national party in election year- Cosmetic cover up.

If serious, a lot could be done to favor and benefit Kiwi as a whole.

Election year.....Have doubts that national will be re voted this time as seriously it is time for a change.

From mid-August 2017, chefs will now be styled as restaurant managers, get paid $46,000 pa or $23 per hour, paid in cash, then on pay-night as they leave via the back door, hand back $10 per hour cash to the owner.

It's official. NZ is the most prosperous country in the world.............. our PM says that it is a sign of prosperity and good for the country..........but the question to be asked - is it ?

Think and Vote

Riff-Raff not consulted

headline - Government says it has toughened immigration policy

In the end, whether it's a cynical move or not, this will play well politically.

It has been done in consultation with business and the major lobby groups have applauded it.

But the Government gets a headline saying it has toughened immigration policy - something that it knows won't do it any harm at the polls.

Iiam Dann

Remember Dipton Bill has recently been told by a Trucking Company they can't get drivers
Yes Dipton Bill's door is wide open to the influencers

Here is Michael Reddell's comment.

MacroBusiness in Australia comments on the bidding war between their political parties on immigration reform (like us they start from a high, extremely permissive immigration situation)

And MacroBusiness says the Aussie Labour party needs to put a card down....

Michael Reddell - where do they sleep - lot of beds needed

In 2015/16, a staggering 192,688 people were granted temporary work visas in New Zealand plus 90,000 people were granted student visas. That's 282,000 in addition to 126,000 PLT migrants

Michael Reddell is always well worth a read. The final two paragraphs sum it up for me:

Rapid population growth – without great new economic opportunities – simply skews the economy inwards. Successfully making it in global markets is the only reliable path for a small country to get and stay rich, and yet the relative size of our export sector is shrinking.

It is time to give up the "big New Zealand" or "big Auckland" ambitions that seem to have appealed to our political leaders for generations. Focus instead on maximising what we can achieve with our own limited natural resources and our own abundantly talented skilled hardworking people.

Well noted, David.
I am familiar with a company that manufactures air cleaning/purification units for large commercial buildings. Their business is 100% export and they employ approx. 20 people. All maintenance is undertaken from NZ, remotely. The company is profitable.
It can be done 'in little old NZ'.

Jsut to note that you can't add those numbers together (many student and work visa recipients will already be in the PLT numbers). also many of the work visas will be for quite short stays, and the approvals will include new visas for people already here, who might have gained their first visa in earlier years.

The PLT and total migration net numbers have been quite similar.

so now just head to the south island and once obtained move north, what a crazy loophole.
the poll run in stuff says it all out of 13K people 76% want immigration cut, not even a close call

There is a bit of a contradiction in the policies and statements.
They would like people to take jobs outside of Auckland BUT you are more likely to earn the minimum requirements for wages in Auckland. Maybe better to have an Auckland and non-Auckland minimum requirement?