14 Oct 2022

Skilled migrant visa change leads to rethink for nurse bound for Australia

8:48 pm on 14 October 2022
Doctor working in hospital to fight 2019 coronavirus disease or COVID-19. Professional healthcare people doctor, nurse or surgeon.

Some nurses can now bypass the current two-year working requirement before gaining residency. Photo: 123RF

Some foreign nurses who've been fighting for New Zealand residency are celebrating after learning they can apply through the reopening skilled migrant category.

The new pathway - which the government announced on Wednesday - will allow some nurses to bypass the current two-year working requirement.

A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Michael Wood, however, cautioned that avenue would apply to only "a small number of nurses".

Tauranga nurse Navneet Kaur told RNZ she had abandoned plans to move to Australia after receiving advice this week that she would be eligible.

"I came to New Zealand to live here, not to leave New Zealand. Now that there is a pathway, yes, obviously I will stay here."

Kaur arrived from India in 2015 and completed her nursing studies in September last year.

She said she had already lodged an expression of interest in the skilled migrant category and expected to be invited to apply next month.

"I do understand it could take [some] time, but at least there is a pathway now," Kaur said.

"Those who were planning to leave, they can cancel their plans now and stay here."

Concern over timeframes

Immigration advisor Katy Armstrong said she was sure some nurses would now be "scrambling" to get in their expressions of interest before the deadline.

But she warned the process could be lengthy with no indication how long it would take for applications to be processed.

"We don't know what the timeframes are going to be," Armstrong said.

"If a nurse says to me now - 'how long is it going to take for my skilled migrant application to come through?' - I literally cannot give them an answer."

Armstrong said the government should remove the two-year work requirement for nurses altogether and simply put them on the Green List's fast-track.

"That really is now the Ferrari [option]. There are people getting residence in two days through that list.

"There's no way that's going to happen to a nurse in the skilled migrant category."

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Erica Stanford Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

National immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford agreed that the skilled migrant pathway was not for anyone hoping for a speedy outcome.

"How quickly will they process those applications? They've given us absolutely no indication. It could be a year, it could be two years."

Stanford said the government had no good reason not to put nurses immediately on the fast-track for residency.

"They're out on a limb, because nobody agrees with them. Not any of the nursing organisations, councils, aged care, even Health New Zealand."

In a statement, a spokesperson for Wood said: "There will be a small number of nurses who will be eligible for residency under the initial reopening of the Skilled Migrant Category at the 160 points threshold.

"The enduring residency pathway for nurses remains through the Work to Residence category of the Green List."

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