New Zealand Residence Programme and Skilled Migrant Category26 March 2021
As of 26th March 2021, we have received no updates on NZ's Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) Visa. The decision to reopen Expressions of Interest (EOIs) or not has not yet been made. There are many things to be considered when deciding this:
- Whether to open to offshore as well or only onshore?
- What will be the points criteria?
- What will be the volume of applications that can be managed?
- What is the operational impact of reopening EOIs? Taking note here that the officers processing new SMC visa applications generated if EOIs reopen are the same officers that are clearing the SMC backlog from prior to March 2020. How much workload can they handle?
- What are the processing times for the SMC visa?
- Lastly and most importantly, how many SMCs should be approved?
This brings us to a concept called New Zealand Residence Programme (NZRP). The government’s residence objectives (which form an integral part of the wider immigration system) are reflected in the NZRP. It simply means who and how many people can obtain NZ residence each year. The last NZRP ran from 1 July 2018 – 31 December 2019, an 18-month period and included a planning range of 50,000 to 60,000 residence approvals. A total of 52,048 people were approved – in line with the target.
Now, this is where the problem lies. The previous NZRP actually ended on 31 December 2019, 3 months before NZ’s first full-scale Covid response in March 2020. And then the new one never came out. So, what did Immigration New Zealand do? Did they need some goals/targets to work with?
They used the old NZRP and all of the above factors – from numbers of applications approved to how many staff INZ should hire to process residence files – are dictated by NZRP. This means that currently INZ is resourced as per the previous NZRP and it does not matter how many applications they receive – they can’t simply hire more officers to process them.
There are currently many things in review by the government – the future of the skilled migrant category visa and NZRP as a whole.
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