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Update from Heartland Immigration as 2020 ends

Years’ end
2020 will be remembered as a disrupter. Employers and employees have had to rapidly adjust, our community activities have altered and there has been great uncertainty for visa holders, employers, educationists and international travellers.

Heartland Immigration

An overview
Our national borders remain restricted to nationals, residents and a few selected categories. Plane travel is less frequent and more expensive; visas are difficult to obtain and all travellers must either be exempt from the requirement to obtain approval to travel into New Zealand (NZ) or are able to gain that approval; a managed isolation voucher to match travel arrangements is then required and finally 14 days in isolation at a city hotel.

On the whole, this has protected New Zealand, for which I am most grateful, while acknowledging the individuals and businesses have done it tough because of the restrictions. Sincere thanks to the numerous essential workers who have kept us fed, providing necessary community care and ensuring our infrastructure continued to operate during all alert levels. Grateful praise, to the global scientific community, is also due for the rapid development of vaccination options.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has issued a number of automatic visa renewals for those temporary residents in NZ and some limited flexibility around other policy settings has taken place in the eleventh hour. INZ has been clearly affected by the beginning of the pandemic with backloads in some application types. There has been a reduction of capacity with offshore offices unable to open for months; onshore limitation with working from home during alert level four; a dramatically changing labour market and all in an election year.

What’s remains on hold or restricted:
Temporary visa applications when the applicant is offshore, unless the person is able to gain approval to travel.
Selections for the ballot registrations for the Samoan Quota (SQ) and Pacific Access Category (PAC)
Expressions of Interest for Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) & Parent Category are deferred.

What is currently able to be done:
Renewals and changes to existing onshore visa holders subject to INZ Instructions.
Visas to allow the entry of partners, children and critical workers once approval to travel is approved along with the appropriate visa.

It is a complicated business so pathway planning is required and again Heartland Immigration is here to help.

The labour market test
Border restrictions, returning New Zealanders, increased training options and INZ initiatives to remodel the work visa process have all affected the labour market test this year. The remodelling began before the pandemic creating a further dimension to a dynamic situation when timely and clear communication from INZ hasn’t always been forthcoming.

Given New Zealand employers have relied on recruiting offshore for labour and skill shortages the travel restrictions are biting. It is true a number of New Zealanders have been made redundant and returnees are now available in the labour force, however gaps remain. Not every displaced tourist industry member is willing and able to milk cows nor a previously London based HR manager able to readily manage an infrastructure project.

Training and relocating options are encouraging, rethinking traditional methods of work a necessity and the focus on New Zealanders first for employment must alway be maintained. We are however a young country with a relatively small and aging population.

Recruitment offshore is a necessity and Heartland Immigration specialises in visas and employer approvals.

@ $25.50 per hour
The most prominent and permanent change for the majority of employer assisted work visa applications is a wage determiner aligned to the medium wage and currently set at $25.50. Currently limiting visas to six months and a total stay of three years before a 12 month stand down period outside of NZ is undertaken. It doesn’t allow the worker to sponsor partners for work visas or children for student visas.

Those employer assisted work visa applicants earning over the medium wage rate have no maximum total time limit, visas can be up to three years at one time and the worker can sponsor a work visa for their partner and student visas for children. Evidence of the need for migrant recruitment is also less cumbersome.

Skills match reports
This remains for those paid under the medium wage rate unless it is a role that has been included in the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) Undersupplied List. More significantly an Oversupplied List has also been introduced listing roles which are considered not to need migrant recruitment and signaling that MSD will not issue Skilled Match Reports.

Regional & sector consultation
There have been 15 independent Regional Skills Leadership Groups (RSLG) along with sector consultation introduced in a bid to match the determination of migrant recruitment with regional and industry needs.

Employer accreditation
Employer accreditation is being implemented so all employers of employer assisted migrant staff will need to hold an INZ accreditation. A two tier system for those employing over and under 5 staff members and special rules for labour hire companies. Regrettable specific INZ instructions are yet to be released however evidence of good employer practices will form large in the process. Now is not a moment too soon to review your situation given lead in times from INZ may not be business focused. We are experienced in accreditation applications and would be pleased to assist you to become prepared.

Holiday office hours
Our office closes on Wednesday, 23 December 2020 and reopens on Thursday, 14 January 2021. We will monitor incoming communications from INZ. For urgent assistance during the holiday period please send a text message and we will get back to you.

Seasonal wishes
Thank you for your customer this year. Now vaccination is on its way, and the economy is moving, it has never been more important to obtain the services of a licensed immigration adviser with your best interest at heart.

We look forward to working with you in 2021, a year which signals to be better and brighter.

Best wishes for a safe and Happy Christmas.

Disclaimer: Mary Noonan is Heartland Immigration Ltd Managing Director and her views, expressed in this article, are not intended to replace the professional service provided to individual migrants by a Licensed Immigration Adviser.

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