Essential Skills Work Visa: Does My Salary Matter?

The Comprehensive Common Sense Guide to Work to Residence Visas in New Zealand

Changes were recently made to the essential skills visa to shift the focus slightly from level of qualification or skill, to level of income. The higher your salary, the more you are worth to New Zealand in theory. Your qualification and experience will still need to meet requirements as well. 

Immigration New Zealand created a cut off based on the current average salary (called the median wage). If you are above that, your chances of an Essential Skills/Skilled Migrant Visa being approved are significantly higher. The process becomes faster and simpler. We can however still help you get your visa approved if your salary falls below the expected level. There are still ways to gain a work visa while earning less.

The current median income is sitting at $25.50 per hour, or $53,040 per year. We expect this to creep up closer to the $27 mark in 2021. The rate is reviewed every November (but in 2020 has been deferred until next year). Any visas applied for before the changes are announced will be counted under the previous rates (at the time of lodging the application) rather than the new rates. 

What is the essential skills work visa?

Skill Levels

The level of your skill is rated from 1-5 to determine what the expected salary is for your profession, if you fall under those expectations you may run into difficulties when you apply including being issued a short term visa. 

Levels 1-3 $25.50 per hour ($53,040 per year)

Levels 4-5 $38.25 per hour ($79,560 per year)

The skill levels are based on the Australia and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO). You can check which level your career type falls under through the ANZSCO search page. 

Labour Under and Over Supply Lists

This is a fairly new addition to the requirements. For those whose career type is on the over supply list getting a visa will prove more challenging. The list is managed by Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ), and you can check for your occupation on their list here. Lists are reviewed every 3 months. 

Also check the regional lists, as some occupations are needed in certain regions, but not all regions. It may be that you can come to New Zealand to work, but not to Auckland. You would then need to look for employment in another region which has a shortage, such as in Christchurch or Wellington.

If your Job in on the Undersupply List:

  • You will have better chances, as your skills are needed in New Zealand
  • Your employer will not need to apply for a Skills Match Report from WINZ
  • Your employer will still need to advertise for your position and show that a suitable candidate who is a New Zealand citizen or resident could not be found. 

If your Job is on the Oversupply List:

  • Your employer will need to list the job vacancy through WINZ 
  • If the position can’t be filled through the WINZ listing (and previous attempts through the usual hiring channels, which they must do before approaching WINZ), WINZ will issue a Skills Match Report to support your application, stating the skills weren’t able to be matched in NZ.
  • Your employer will still need to advertise for your position and show that a suitable candidate who is a New Zealand citizen or resident could not be found. 

Qualification Requirements

You can check your qualifications against New Zealand standards through the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) website. It may be that you need to sit extra papers to bring it up to standard before you can apply. It’s best to check your qualifications early on in the application process. They can sometimes count relevant experience in an industry as well. 

We can help you gather relevant evidence of your experience that will be accepted, and find a provider to fill in any education gaps needed before you apply, give us a call on 0800 800 612.

If your career type requires ‘occupational registration’ this will need to be up to date as well. This includes careers such as Teachers, Lawyers and Nurses. It may be that you will have to undergo a “provisional registration” period in New Zealand, to check you can work to our standards when you start your job here, before you will be counted as ‘registered’ in New Zealand. This may not stop you starting work, but is an extra requirement to consider when you apply and begin working here. 

When Your Visa Expires:

You have to start the process all over again, and so does your employer. You will have either a 1 or 3 year work visa. When that expires you can renew it, but you have to prove your skills are still needed. Your employer will have to re-advertise your position, check that there is still not a New Zealander who can fill the job, and then support your application again. This process will continue every 1-3yrs until you are able to meet the requirements for a resident type visa.

Want to Read More?

The Comprehensive Commonsense Guide to New Zealand Work to Residence Visas

The New Zealand Skilled Migrant Resident Visa Guide

Work Visas Information Page

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