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May 1, 2017 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Government knifes international student graduates in the back

Proposed changes to immigration law, announced on April 19, will require immigrants working in New Zealand to meet a “remuneration threshold” to qualify as a “skilled migrant.”

Two remuneration thresholds will be introduced for Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) residence applications, one at the median income of $48,859 for skilled jobs, and another 1.5 times that at $73,299 for well-paid jobs considered low-skilled.

Changes will also see “low-skilled migrants” being limited to three years living in New Zealand, with a stand-down period before approval of a new visa.

Previously, Expressions of Interest (EOIs) from applicants were assessed with a point-based system accumulated from qualifications, work experience, and job offers, following selection from a fortnightly draw.

The SMC’s point allocation system for residence applications will also be rebalanced to further recognise skills in the 30–39 age group and high remuneration levels.

Under prior arrangements, all applicants in varied age groups with a minimum of 140 points had their EOIs selected. The government increased this to 160 points in October 2016.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said the government is committed to ensuring migration “best supports the economy and the labour market.”

Reasons for the changes include the election, housing prices, and infrastructure and transport pressures.

Immigration adviser Iain MacLeod highlighted the impact the changes will have on international student graduates.

Graduates generally earn below $49,000, and there is “something like 100,000” international student graduates currently residing in New Zealand, and half of this figure are here due to the “pathway to residence promised by the government,” MacLeod said.

“The politics of it are beautiful — they have just stabbed thousands of international students very quietly and effectively in the back without them feeling the knife.”

An AUT graduate, originally from India, disagreed with the changes, highlighting the huge investment international students make through a New Zealand education, and how many graduates would fall into the lower pay bracket.

“After that, if the government is changing the rules […] it makes it so difficult to settle down here.”

The graduate believed the changes will not help international student graduates gain jobs, as employers sometimes do not support their visas or residency bids. They called the proposed changes “harsh and disappointing.”

In a statement, Immigration New Zealand said the changes will “better manage immigration and improve the labour market contribution of temporary and permanent migration.”

Public consultation on the changes closes on May 21.


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