Skills Match Reports – The Immigration Fallacy

Skills Match Reports – The Immigration Fallacy

Skills Match Reports were introduced into Work Visa policy a few years ago.  Since then employers, applicants and immigration lawyers all over New Zealand have been the pawns in a game between the Ministry of Social Development and Immigration New Zealand.

So what is a Skills Match Report? A Skills Match Report is a document produced by Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ), and submitted with a Work Visa Application under the Essential Skills Category (and other related visa categories). It is generated following a recruitment process conducted by WINZ, after an employer approaches WINZ to list a vacancy in their business. WINZ will advertise the role on its website and search through its database for a suitable candidate. Once this process is complete, the Skills Match Report is issued and it will outline the requirements of the role, whether any candidates were referred to the employer and the reasons provided by the employer for rejecting any candidates, if any. Now, this all appears to be reasonable and genuine, except it isn’t.

The process created by Immigration New Zealand instigates an artificial engagement with WINZ. This is because the requirement to list a vacancy with WINZ is dependent on the 'skill level' of an occupation. The skill level is determined by the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO). Immigration policy requires an employer to 'match-up' the vacant role within their business with an occupation listed in ANZSCO. This will then determine whether the employer needs to engage with WINZ.

However, the problem is that it isn’t easy for employers (let alone immigration specialists) to identify which ANZSCO occupation a role can be 'matched up' to. This is because ANZSCO is a closed list and it is not possible to cater to all the different types of positions that are now available within various industries.

It is not uncommon for Immigration New Zealand to reject an employer's selection of skill level, especially if the employer has indicated that the role is between skill levels 1-3.  In these circumstances, Immigration New Zealand writes to the applicant and claims that the role is not at skill levels 1-3 and that it is instead at skill level 4-5. This means the employer now needs to engage with WINZ, after he has completed his own recruitment process and selected his candidate.

Why is this problematic?

1. The employer has already offered the role to the migrant/applicant (and the visa application is already in process)

2. Immigration New Zealand claims to understand what the role entails more than the employer and forces the employer to list the vacancy only with the requirements mandated by INZ, rather than those specifically required by the employer for his/her business

3. The employer is not genuinely engaging with WINZ, as the purpose of the exercise is more about obtaining a Skills Match Report, than looking for a suitable New Zealander to fill the role, as the role has already been offered to the applicant.

Another major problem with this process is that WINZ refuses to list a vacancy (where someone requires a Skills Match Report) if it determines (based on its own assessment) that the role is at skill levels 1-3. This then initiates an exercise for the employer or the immigration lawyer to try and convince WINZ that the role is actually lower-skilled as per ANZSCO and Immigration New Zealand and that the vacancy does need to be listed.

Once this hurdle is passed, the employer then needs to list the role with the 'ideal candidate requirements' that ANZSCO allows, and nothing more. For example, if an employer was looking to hire a Duty Manager for his Pub, this role would be compared to the ANZSCO occupation of Retail Supervisor (as ANZSCO does not cater for Duty Managers at pubs). As per ANZSCO, a Retail Supervisor only needs to have one year of relevant experience or a relevant level 4 qualification (Diploma level) or above. If the employer wanted to hire someone with at least two years of relevant work experience because his bar was well established and required a certain degree of knowledge of drinks, this may be deemed 'excessive' by Immigration New Zealand and WINZ may refuse to include these requirements in the advert. If the advertising proceeds with these requirements, Immigration New Zealand may reject the recruitment efforts claiming that the employer's requirements were excessive and therefore that the recruitment process was not fair or genuine.  

Although one can appreciate the purpose of these Instructions, the implications of the practical process imposed by Immigration New Zealand and WINZ fails to capture it. The recruitment effort simply becomes a window-dressing exercise. There is no point in an employer engaging with WINZ once the role has already been offered to a suitable candidate. This means they are generally happy with the candidate and wish to retain this individual. If WINZ engagement is required, it should be completed at the outset, and not after a visa application is lodged by an immigrant who has been offered the role.

The removal of ANZSCO assessments from work visa policy in mid-2020 will hopefully alleviate these issues. It is a move that has been well overdue.

It is important to offer our citizens opportunities to find work, but it is equally as important to offer our citizens the opportunity to hire employees who can contribute to their business, which in turn will contribute to our country. With unemployment rates being as low as they are, the Minister of Immigration must acknowledge that employers have to find workers from outside the pool of candidates available in this country. This means engaging with the temporary visa holders present in New Zealand or skilled workers who are based overseas.

Please direct any enquiries in relation to Work Visas or other immigration related matters to:

Ramya Sathiyanathan on (09) 306 6727 (rsathiyanathan@mcveaghfleming.co.nz).

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© McVeagh Fleming 2020

This article is published for general information purposes only. Legal content in this article is necessarily of a general nature and should not be relied    upon as legal advice. If you require specific legal advice in respect of any legal issue, you should always engage a lawyer to provide that advice.