Skilled Migrant Category: smallest selection ever

Please note that I am not a licensed immigration adviser and the following is intended as general immigration commentary, not personal advice.

SMC selections
Fig 1 – SMC Selections
(Click for enlargement)

In December 2005 a points system was introduced to help the immigration department select suitable applicants for Permanent Residency under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC).

Since then migrants scoring more than 100 points have been able to enter an application (their Expression of Interest or EOI) for Residency.

Applications go into a ‘pool’ and wait for a maximum of 6 months at which point they expire and drop out again. If this happens applicants don’t get their money back and so entering an application is effectively a gamble of the $400 fee.

Each fortnight the immigration department pulls a number of applications from that pool using strict criteria to meet the largest part of the Permanent Residence quota agreed each year by government.

As reported on move2nz many times (see links below), the numbers being selected each fortnight have been dropping over the past two years without any explanation from government. The agreed Residency quota has stood rock steady at 45,000 per year since 2001, but as move2nz predicted the immigration department failed to meet this quota last year for the first time ever.

Against this backdrop of what I would call immigration cuts, 21st September 2011 saw the smallest selection ever made by the department with less than 500 applications pulled from the pool.

A period of stability
Between January 2006 (when the first selection was made under this programme) and December 2008 the number selected each fortnight by the department stayed steady at around 770 to ensure that the Residency quota of beween 27,000 and 30,000 a year for the Skilled/Business stream was met.

What this meant was that anyone entering an Expression of Interest had a chance of being selected. Applications scoring 140 points or more are automatically pulled from the pool, but others scoring less with bonus points for employment, qualifications and work experience were also selected. Even those without any bonus points at all were regularly selected.

The winds of change
Although no official changes were made to quotas or policy, from January 2009 a series of changes were implemented which had a huge effect on the Skilled Migrant Category which makes up around 60 percent of all Residency applications.

As can be seen in the graph above (fig 1) in 2008 the average number of EOIs pulled from the pool each fortnight was 774. By 2009 this had dropped to 705 and in 2010 the average was right down to just 557. As a result 5,441 less applications (or nearly 15,000 less people) were selected for processing in 2010.

2011 was tracking along pretty much the same as 2010 until September when numbers dropped again.

Smallest selection ever
On 21st September the lowest number ever was selected from the pool with just 496 applications being collected for processing.

Government reports claim that immigration numbers have fallen because of less demand (less jobs, less migration globally and the Canterbury quakes scaring people off).

The SMC Pool
Fig 2 – The pool
(Click for enlargement)

The claim that there has been less interest from migrants is interesting as when this latest and smallest ever selection was made the pool was full to bursting with 1,729 EOIs available.

In fact after a low in September 2009 of ‘just’ 830 available, the number of applications floating patiently in the pool has been rising since December 2009 (see fig 2 aside) as I mentioned in a March 2010 report.

The wave pattern showed in the graph aside (with peaks followed by troughs) clearly shows thousands of applications being entered and then spending so long in the pool that they expire without being selected.

Getting answers
I am deeply concerned by the current lack of information and transparency on this issue.

Putting quotas and selection criteria aside, in my opinion migrants should be informed of what the position is before they enter their application. They should be able to expect a transparent, fair and reasonably predictable selection system to ensure that they are not committing to moving to New Zealand without a reasonable expectation of success.

Instead what we have seen over the past two years is that well over 4,000 people are estimated to have paid government fees to enter applications which had little or no chance of ever being selected – that’s an estimated $1.8 million in fees collected from migrants in the skilled/business stream alone who met selection criteria but had no chance of being selected.

To find out what is going on and why the immigration department appear to have stopped working towards the government’s agreed quota for Permanent Residents I wrote to the Minister of Immigration, Dr. Jonathan Coleman on 20th July. It took a while but I have now received a reply, however this directly contradicts information previously provided by the Minister and so I need to clarify details before I update on this.

I have also written to Dr. Coleman’s office to ask where authors of the recent reports on immigration trends got their figures from. This request was never acknowledged and so I was forced to turn it into an Official Information Act request on 16th September. This at least should mean I have an answer soon. I’ll update when I know more.

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One Response to “Skilled Migrant Category: smallest selection ever”

  1. Don Shands Says:

    Very good information, preciously presented. Looking forward to your update!

    I’m a potential skilled migrant (University degree holder within the Construction and Engineering industry) and researching the prospect of making the move to New Zealand. I have also run up against a few substantial deal breakers in wishing to immigrate to New Zealand!

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