New Zealand sees more highly skilled immigrants

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The number of skilled migrants who already have jobs or job offers when they are shortlisted for New Zealand residency has increased since tougher criteria were introduced.

The qualifying bar for the skilled migrant category was raised from 100 to 140 points in December 2005. Applicants with between 100 and 140 points can also qualify if they have a job or job offer and enough places are available.

Yesterday, the Immigration Service gave out statistics from the first selection round since the changes.

Under the category, people have to submit an "expression of interest" for residency and gain points for their skills, qualifications and experience. Those selected are invited to apply for residency.

Of the 1000 principal applicants invited to apply in the latest selection, 910 had New Zealand jobs or job offers. Their applications also represented another 1180 family members.

Last year, only 54 per cent of those invited to apply for residency had a job or job offer.

Immigration Minister David Cunliffe said the figures showed that successful applicants had the qualities needed by New Zealand employers. "While it is too early to tell what future selections will produce, it appears from this first selection that the quality of potential applicants is high."

National immigration spokesman Lockwood Smith said the increased emphasis on job offers had been a positive move. There had been too much emphasis on "paper qualifications" in the past.

But New Zealand employers had been facing high skill shortages and the impact of the changes would need to be monitored over a longer period. "Instead of being a measure of employability it could be a measure more of the desperation of employers."

In the latest selection, 856 applicants had 140 points or more and were automatically selected. New Zealand's immigration quota is currently set at 51,500 a year.