Migrant English standards cut
4:00AM Tuesday Mar 17, 2009
By Lincoln Tan
New Zealand Herald
New Zealand will not follow Australia's lead in cutting immigration, but instead make it easier for business and investor migrants to come, Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman said yesterday.
English language requirements would be lowered and minimum investments would be brought to “more realistic levels”, Mr Coleman said.
He said changing the requirements in light of the present economic climate was a priority for the Government, and would come into effect within “months, rather than years”.
Under current policy set by the Labour Government, which took effect in November 2007, an investor bringing in $2.5 million needs to be under 54, and have IELTS level 5. Someone bringing in $10 million needs at least IELTS level 4 and be under 64. Age and language limits were only waived for immigrants who invested at least $20 million.
Australia yesterday announced cuts to immigration from 133,500 to 115,000, or 14 per cent.
Mr Coleman said there would be public consultations with migrant, business and industry groups.
Australia has enjoyed a boom in new arrivals for the past decade to help meet labour shortages, but six of its major trading partners were in recession.
“Our situation is very different to Australia, because 60 per cent of the 45,000 migrants we aim to bring here are from the skilled and business categories,” Mr Coleman said.
“We are going to need those skills in the economy, and when we get out of this recession, there'll be more demand then ever for those skills.”
Migrants made up 60 per cent of the New Zealand workforce in the past five years, according to Immigration New Zealand figures.
However, those on temporary permits will find it harder to get their permits renewed if they are competing with New Zealanders for limited jobs, Mr Coleman said.
Chairman for the Association of Migration and Investment, Richard Howard, said the changes were timely, especially as many skilled areas here still faced a shortage of workers. He said Australia's cutback to immigration would also benefit New Zealand, because those considering migrating there could now be coming here instead.
“Australia and New Zealand tend to be looked at together, and migrants looking for greater certainty, policy security and a country that's welcoming to migrants will probably now look more to New Zealand rather than Australia,” Mr Howard said.
Prime Minister John Key said New Zealand still had a skills shortage.
“We have a skills deficit at the moment and while that might abate in the downturn and [with] growing unemployment, we still need to make sure we have got enough skills to grow our economy.”
New Zealand's immigration quota is set at around 45,000, with around 27,000 in the skilled and business category.