As regular readers of my newsletters and blogs (and anyone researching a permanent move) will know, the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC – you’ll get used to all of the acronyms!) of New Zealand’s Residence Programme starts with an Expression of Interest or EOI.
This EOI contains all of the information needed to make a decision about your application and costs $440 (if you submit it online, $560 if you send in a paper form). EOIs submitted go in to a ‘pool’ and each fortnight the immigration department selects a number of EOIs from the pool to meet agreed quotas.
I have been concerned for some time that there is not enough clarity around the chances of EOIs being submitted being pulled from the pool before they expire and the applicants lose their money. Although there are no guarantees I believe that migrants have a right to transparency so that they can weigh up the decision before paying to enter an EOI.
Here is what the immigration department’s website says about EOI selections:
Expressions of Interest that have total points of 140 or more are selected automatically Expressions of Interest that have less than 140 points and include points for jobs or job offers are selected in sufficient numbers to meet the requirements of the New Zealand Residence Programme Additional Expressions of Interest may be selected from the pool to meet the requirements of the New Zealand Residence Programme using criteria set by the Minister of Immigration.
What the statement above says to me is that:
- EOIs entered with 140 points or more will be selected.
- EOIs entered with less than 140 points and a job offer will beselected, but only within the quota.
- EOIs entered with less than 140 points and no job may be selectedto meet requirements.
- The NZ residence programme requirements will be met.
Is this what is actually happening?
Well yes and no. To help me explain I will use groupings that were commonly used by the immigration department before 2009 (policy has not changed since then, it’s just that some of these groups are no longer ever selected):
- 140 points or more with a job offer;
- 140 points or more;
- 100 – 135 points with a job offer;
- 100 points or more with 15 bonus points for work experience;
- 100 points or more with 10 bonus points for work experience;
- 100 points or more with 10 bonus points for qualifications;
- 100 points or more with no bonus points.
All of these groups are valid entries under the current system, but how do your chances stack up for each of these groups?
The immigration year starts on 1st July. To give you an idea of selection patterns here are the numbers which have been selected since July 2011 for groups above.
- 62% (6,308);
- 13% (1,320);
- 17% (1,730);
- 8% (861);
- 0% (0);
- 0% (0);
- 0% (0).
Groups 1 and 3 (those with job offers)
The emphasis in the Skilled Migrant Category is to bring in skilled workers who have either obtained job offers or are already working – i.e. groups 1 and 3. As a result in the year to date these two groups make up 79% of all EOIs accepted.
On average the department try to select around 100 from Group 2 (which are high scoring applicants who do not yet have a job offer) each fortnight depending on what is available. Applicants entering Group 2 EOIs have a pretty good chance of being selected before their EOI lapses – on average so far in the year from July the department has selected 96 per fortnight so they are pretty much on target and could probably do with some more of these.
Group 4 (15 bonus points for work experience)
EOIs submitted in this group are not always selected each fortnight and overall only a very small number of these EOIs have been picked. What may catch people out is that the pass mark (i.e. the minimum number of points needed before selection) wanders around. For example on 14 December 2011 EOIs claiming 110 points were selected, but in other weeks only those with 120, 130 or even 135 will be taken from the pool.
Here is a graph of the pass-mark since July 2011 (applications with points below the red line would not be selected).
What you can see from this is that no EOI entered falling into this group scoring less than 110 points has been selected so far this year. For most months EOIs would need to score 125 points or better and the average ‘pass-mark’ (of points needed to be selected through 2011/12) has been 128 so far.
This is a marked change from 2010/11 when EOIs scoring over 100 points were often selected. In fact for 2010/11 the average ‘pass-mark’ needed for a reasonable chance of selection was only 108 points.
Group 5 (10 bonus points for work experience)
No EOIs have been selected falling into this group since 19 May 2011 when EOIs claiming just 100 points and upwards were selected. This means that all EOIs falling into this group entered between May 2011 and late September 2011 (so far) lapsed before being selected. Any EOIs being entered in this group are highly unlikely to be selected under the current regime.
Group 6 (10 bonus points for qualifications)
Again no EOIs have been selected falling into this group since 19 May 2011 have been selected meaning that many would have lapsed. Any EOIs being entered in this group are highly unlikely to be selected under the current regime.
Group 7 (no bonus points)
No EOIs in this group have been selected since December 2009 meaning that any EOI entered which did not exceed 140 points or claim bonus points between December 2009 and September 2011 would have lapsed. Any EOIs being entered in this group are highly unlikely to be selected under the current regime.
New Zealand Residence Programme requirements
An important point affecting migrant’s expectations of their EOI being selected from the pool is the statement that the current regime will meet “the requirements of the New Zealand Residence Programme”. Many migrants entering EOIs may feel that this means the chances of their EOI being selected has not diminished, however this is not the case.
The Skilled Migrant Category makes up around 58 percent of New Zealand’s Residence programme which is spread across three main streams: Business/Skilled (90% of which is the SMC); family and humanitarian. The Residence programme has a quota agreed by government, which used to be between 45,000 and 50,000 per year and is now a span of between 135,000 and 150,000 over the next three years.
In 2010/11 the immigration department failed to meet the Residence quota for the first time. The department did not miss this by a little, but by 4,263 or 9.5%. The majority of this shortfall came from the Skilled Migrant Category which was 3,855 or 14.3% short.
Creating a little transparency
Government reports blame the Canterbury earthquakes and global recession, however when asked for the data to support these conclusions the authors are not able to provide this information. Interestingly the reports fail to attribute any blame for the fall in numbers gaining residency through the Skilled Migrant Category to policy changes made by the immigration Minister, for example the 30% cut implemented since January 2010 in the number of EOIs selected for processing through the SMC residency stream!
This year (although the quotas have been now spread over 3 years) the department is heading for a shortfall of 8,442 (based on departmental statistics to February 2012) or 33.8% on the Skilled Migrant Category.
Migrants entering EOIs should be aware that although technically the requirements of the Residence programme are being met, this is because the ‘goalposts have been moved’. In reality applicants entering an EOI stand a significantly lower chance of that EOI being selected for processing as not only has the number of EOIs being pulled from the pool been cut by 30%, the percentage of those lucky applications which are declined has doubled over recent years to 17.8% so far in 2011/12.
I am concerned that immigration department statements, like the one I quoted earlier in this article, give many migrants thinking of entering EOIs overblown expectations of their chances of being selected. While those with job offers or over 140 points can reasonably expect to be selected under the current regime, thousands of others are entering EOIs in good faith not realising they stand little or no chance of being selected.
Figures for the number of EOIs which have lapsed (i.e. dropped out of the pool with the fee lost) are not available, however if numbers from 2009 had been maintained through the months since over 2,200 applications entered – which would have stood a good chance of being selected in previous years under what is presented as the same system – would have lapsed meaning the applicants would have lost their money.
Not considering additional costs to migrants (such as paying a professional to help prepare the EOI), fees received by the New Zealand government alone for applications which had little or no chance of success would add up to nearly $900,000!
I would very much like to see the position clarified in immigration department information so that migrants are given transparent information on the current criteria (which has been in force since January 2010) enabling them to make informed choices on whether to submit their EOI or not.
Hopefully this article will begin this process of building awareness and transparency.