New Zealand to Implement a Points-Based System to Increase Its Tech Talent

Recent changes to its work visa policies aim to boost the economy

26 May 2017

New Zealand has joined Australia and the United States in reforming its work visa policies. The goal of the New Zealand revisions, in part, is to increase the number of visas for people who are skilled in in-demand fields including engineering, telecommunications, and IT. The changes will become effective on 14 August.

The major shift is that the government is implementing a points-based system, in which applicants who are skilled in technical fields and hold a master’s degree or Ph.D. will receive more points (110 total). Applicants must have at least 160 points. Other factors are relevant work experience, age, and having a partner who also will work in the country.

Michael Woodhouse, New Zealand’s immigration minister, released a public statement last month, saying the changes will bring in noncitizens who can provide the most economic benefits to the country. Moreover, the revisions will make it easier for highly skilled temporary workers to apply for permanent residence status, instead of leaving the country once their visas expire.

THE SHORTAGE IS REAL

Companies across the country, and in nearly every industry, are struggling to find workers with tech skills, according to Graeme Muller, chief executive of the New Zealand Technology Industry Association (NZTech). Technology is the fastest-growing industry in the country, employing some 100,000 people, and the number of jobs in IT alone is expected to grow by 50 percent in the next 10 years, Muller says.

Changes to visa policies are one way to fill the gap. Another is to make techies more aware of the opportunities for them in New Zealand. The LookSee Wellington program, for example, has offered to fly 100 tech developers, all-expenses paid, to the country’s capital for job interviews. The program is a joint effort by NZTech, the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency, NZ Immigration, and job site WorkHere.

More than 48,000 people from around the world have applied—mostly from India, followed by the United States. Employees from Amazon, Google, and NASA were among the applicants. The visa recipients are expected to be selected in the coming weeks.

Those who are chosen receive a work visa valid for 30 months, with relocation costs covered. After 24 months, the workers can apply for legal permanent residence.

ENTREPRENEURS WELCOME, TOO

While New Zealand is focused on helping companies find tech talent, it also is encouraging people to come to the country to start their own business. The Global Impact Visa program will provide three-year visas to as many as 100 entrepreneurs from other countries. After that period, they can apply for legal permanent residence.

Although the program does not offer funding to the startups, it does provide access to investors, mentors, accelerator programs, university resources, and R&D grants. According to the program, the goal is to bring in entrepreneurs who can improve the country’s economy and increase innovation.

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