The government’s immigration policy changes

The Prime Minister yesterday announced several changes to New Zealand’s immigration policy. This is an extract from the Minister of Immigration’s press release.

New measures to take effect from 1 November include:

  • Boosting the bonus points for Skilled Migrants applying for residence with a job offer outside Auckland from 10 to 30 points. [They require 100 points]
  • Doubling the points for entrepreneurs planning to set up businesses in the regions under the Entrepreneur Work Visa from 20 to 40 points.  [They require 120 points]
  • Streamlining the labour market test to provide employers with more certainty, earlier in the visa application process.

“Unemployment across the Mainland is nearly half that of the North Island, and labour is in short supply,” Mr Woodhouse says.“We’re looking at offering residence to some migrants, who have applied at least five times for their annual work visa. In return, we will require them to commit to the South Island regions where they’ve put down roots.”

Mr Woodhouse says the Government is also considering a new Global Impact Visa to attract high-impact entrepreneurs, investors and start-up teams to launch global ventures from New Zealand.

“I will announce further details later this year, but we envisage this visa would be offered to a limited number of younger, highly talented, successful and well-connected entrepreneurs from places like Silicon Valley,” Mr Woodhouse says.

I can’t see any background analysis to these measures, either on the MBIE website or with the Minister’s press release.  On the face of it, however, this looks like a set of measures that will, on balance, to undermine the quality of New Zealand’s immigration programme.

We all know about the infrastructure pressures in Auckland –  largely self-inflicted by central and local government.  Perhaps trying to steer some of the immigrants away from Auckland might temporarily ease some of those pressures a little.  But there is a price to be paid. Providing a significant increase in the number of points available for people with job offers outside Auckland must lower the likely average quality of incoming immigrants.  There is no sign that the permanent residence approvals target (135000 to 150000 on a rolling three year basis) is being increased, so people going to the regions –  taking advantage of the additional points for doing so – will be at the expense of otherwise better-qualified people who would have gone to Auckland.    Under the new policy, people will only have to stay in the regions for a year, so perhaps it will make only a very small difference over time to the number of immigrants who end up in Auckland.  But the ones who do come in, taking advantage of these additional points, will be – on average – less good quality people than the applicants who are squeezed out (people who might have a job offer in Auckland –  our highest paying and –  at least in a statistical sense –  most productive city).    Perhaps I’m missing a significant strand in the reasoning, but I can’t see the likely long-term economic gain for New Zealand.

The Global Impact Visa idea sounds superficially promising. But my impression from the Pathways Conference last week was that existing entrepreneur visa schemes had not worked particularly well.  It will be interesting to see the analysis behind this proposal, including an assessment of how the risks around it will be managed and overcome.  I remain a little sceptical of the attraction of New Zealand to “younger, highly talented, successful and well-connected entrepreneurs from places like Silicon Valley”.  The flow of people in that sector would seem more naturally to be in other direction.  I hope it is not an example of the old derogatory adage used about Britons working in Hong Kong:  FILTH  (“failed in London, try Hong Kong”).

2 thoughts on “The government’s immigration policy changes

  1. ” Under the new policy, people will only have to stay in the regions for a year, so perhaps it will make only a very small difference over time to the number of immigrants who end up in Auckland.” On the face of it that may seem a very reasonable inference. However, take the case of our son (a Kiwi born) and his wife, a Malaysian Chinese. Because of the delays in getting a job for our daughter-in-law, a doctor, in Auckland, they settled in Canterbury. They have gone overseas since, but are returning, … again to Canterbury. Roots, when established, are not so easily broken. One year may be, I fear, a bit light in the main !.


  2. Absolutely right. I work in IT, from the UK and live in Wellington, I can assure you there is not a flow in from Silicon Valley, it is like you say the other way. Its worth looking at what ICT schemes and training are around for young people in NZ I will definitely have a look today. The recent Wellington council announcement on a $3 million hub needs looking into and what real value it actually provides to anyone wanting to make a go of it in ICT homegrown style.
    Smacks a little of irony when Xero are fully focused on cracking the USA I can’t help think these so called bright young things will do an about turn when they realise they need to be State side selling and the numerous other issues around doing business from here and the slow adoption of fast internet.
    I am having to look at jobs in Auckland because there simply isn’t enough quality jobs in Wellington, so on one hand nice idea but its surely only one piece of the innovation pie.


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