NZ Immigration's minister, Michael Woods, announced that the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) visa will reopen under current settings while the consultation is underway regarding the proposed changes, like introducing the new 6-point system.
"We are resuming the Skilled Migrant Category under the current settings to help attract more workers. The first selection will be at 160 points, and subsequent selections at an increased threshold of 180 points, to better align with the future direction of the category and our rebalance goals."
The Skilled Migrant Category is a residence pathway for migrants holding skilled job offers from New Zealand employers. Under this category, it awards migrants with points based on their education, work experience, job offers, and personal attributes. The points are compared against a 'Pass Mark'.
Learn more about the category and its residence pathway in our Skilled Migrant Resident visa guide.
Before the Skilled Migrant Category closed to migrants worldwide, this was considered a two-stage process and will be retained for the meantime until the Government's proposed changes are accepted.
First, applicants submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) and include their points.
Then, INZ draws from all the applications with sufficient points to meet the current threshold of 160 points.
Lastly, after the initial assessment, INZ sends the submitting applicants an invitation to apply for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category.
Until INZ makes any further announcements about the Government's proposal, applicants can claim points for the following:
The Government is rebalancing New Zealand's immigration system by implementing a shift in the future migrant workforce to increase New Zealand business productivity and rebalance the skills gap to support our economy's growth.
Before the borders closed, INZ noticed various issues within the Skilled Migrant Category.
"As the world recovers from COVID-19, labour shortages continue to be a global symptom," Michael Wood stated.
Attracting migrants to New Zealand can be a challenge due to its location and its job opportunities. New Zealand employers are fighting with the likes of Australia to attract talent, as the cost of living and lower wages often detract migrants from our shores.
INZ has proposed new changes to help support a lift in the overall economy. However, this will take time to remedy. Increasing wages to attract top talent lies in the private sector's hands. Some businesses will be able to afford this investment, whilst others will rely on a lower-skilled workforce for the time being.
While many NZ businesses have gained Employer Accreditation and can support overseas workers with the addition of the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV NZ), the issue still remains.
The Government hears the concerns of businesses as they continue to find it challenging to recruit internationally in this constrained labour market. More help is needed to help attract more highly skilled applicants, relieve labour shortages, and ensure a competitive edge to attract talent to New Zealand, hence the proposed changes being submitted for consultation.
Many migrants with limited training or experience became eligible for the Skilled Migrant Category. This is inconsistent with the new objective of granting residence to people who can fill long-term skill needs.
The new points system increase is seen to provide a high-value, sustainable migrant population.
A significant backlog of eligible applications and long wait times for decisions because the number of eligible applicants significantly exceeded the places available, and many applications were complex to process under current settings.
For example, in 2019, only around 40% of all eligible applications were processed and approved. With a high level of applications, there was significant uncertainty for migrants about when and if they would be granted residence.
There was an increase in the population of migrants who had become well-settled in New Zealand but did not have a realistic pathway to NZ residence. Settling without the rights and protections of residence creates various risks for the migrant.
The Skilled Migrant Category was essentially the main visa for residence in NZ. The overarching objective is to support New Zealand's economic growth by attracting people with skills to fill identified long-term needs and who can deploy those skills in New Zealand through residence.
However, it closed to new applications in April 2020, when the NZ border closed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. With the proposal, INZ is not attempting to change the objective of the category but instead aiming to ensure it's meeting its objectives and addressing the issues seen pre-Covid.
INZ announced the reopening of the Skilled Migrant Category in October 2022. The Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) visa was reopened and resumed (under the same settings previous to April 2020) on 9 November 2022. However, new and continuous changes are expected, as the Government's proposal has been submitted for consultation before it is implemented.
The October 2022 announcement included an increase in the points threshold from 160 to 180 from 18 January 2023.
Upon introducing the points system, INZ claimed it was to be adjusted regularly to manage the skill level and volume of applications within New Zealand. However, the reality was that changes have been rare.
The Skilled Migrant Category was reviewed in 2015 and 2016 and resulted in changes to the balance of points, increasing from 140 to 160 points. Therefore, the points threshold increase may support the immigration rebalance and NZ growth objective.
INZ has proposed a simplified points system that sets a clear, fair, and transparent eligibility threshold for skilled residence.
Applicants will need at least 6 points to be eligible, which can be made up from:
Simplifying the points system will shift the focus of the Skilled Migrant Category to skills, not specific professions. Whereas the Green List is occupation-based, will likely provide better avenues, and will remain tightly focused on occupations of critical importance to the New Zealand economy.
The minister says the new system would clarify eligibility in the long term, allow New Zealand to retain the talent brought in via the new Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV), and complement the Green List.
Understanding the Skilled Migrant Category visa options and INZ's changes can be stressful, but we can help! Reach out to our experienced immigration advisers for advice and guidance on the process.
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Today the government announced a pathway to residence for migrant workers who are living and working in New Zealand. Applications open on 1 December 2021 for the first wave who are eligible to apply. The second wave can apply from 1 March 2022. The deadline to lodge an application is 31 July 2022 or else they will miss out on this one off opportunity.
Today the government announced a pathway to residence for people living and working in New Zealand. Applications open on 1 December 2021 for the first wave eligible to apply. The second wave can apply from 1 March 2022. The deadline to lodge an application is 31 July 2022 or else you miss the boat.
The government has moved the introduction of the new employer accreditation process across to mid-2022. At the same time, the Minister of Immigration announced new work visa rules for migrant workers who are already in New Zealand and working full time.
The government has increased the median wage to $27 per hour from 19 July. Any Skilled Migrant residence application lodged after this date will need to include a skilled job offer that pays at least $27 per hour. For some lower-skilled occupations, the minimum pay rate increases to $40.50 per hour.
From 19 July 2021
From 30 June 2021
Employers of migrant workers must become accredited from 1 November 2021 before work visa applications can be processed. Most employers are not accredited. Those that are accredited will have to roll into the new system when it goes live in late September.
From mid-2020 (delayed)
Skilled occupation "Dairy Cattle Farmer" spilt into three occupations. New occupations are: "Dairy Farm Manager", "Assistant Dairy Farm Manager" and "Dairy Herd Manager". Each sit at different skill levels, therefore, the award of points will depend on pay rates, job tasks and other requirements.
From 15 February 2021
The government has deferred the fortnightly selection of Expressions of Interest from the Skilled Migrant pool for six months (to be reviewed in April 2021). Invitations to Apply for Residence remain suspended. The last selection from the Skilled Migrant pool took place on 18/03/2020.
From 7 October 2020
The government added four new occupations that are now regarded as skilled employment and may qualify for job offer points under the Skilled Migrant Category. These are:
Aged or disabled carer, Bicycle mechanic, Driller and Nursing Support worker.
From 27 July 2020
Anyone invited by Immigration NZ to apply for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category where their invitation is dated between 1 November 2019 and 15 April 2020 (inclusive) has now been granted an additional six months to lodge their residence application.
From 27 May 2020
The government has deferred the fortnightly selection of Expressions of Interest from the Skilled Migrant pool. This means Invitations to Apply for Residence are also suspended. Malcolm Pacific Immigration does not anticipate selections to resume until after the general election held on 17 October 2020.
Immigration NZ is now prioritising Skilled Migrant Residence applications where the main (principal) applicant meets the criteria:
From 24 February 2020
From 7 October 2019
The government recently added more occupations that are now to be regarded as skilled employment and may qualify for job offer points under the Skilled Migrant Category. In order to qualify for points, the job must be paying at least the current median wage (or higher for certain occupations) at the time the residence application is lodged.
From 1 November 2021
From 1 November 2021 anyone who is not a NZ citizen must be fully vaccinated (unless exempt) before travelling to New Zealand. Fully vaccinated means your last dose of vaccine was given at least 14 days before travelling and it was an approved vaccine.
Applications for employer accreditation closed at the end of June 2021. Applications lodged before the closure date are still being processed. New applications for accreditation open on 9 May 2022. The process will be quite different to what employers have experienced in the past. Businesses will need to meet minimum standards.
Wednesday, 1 December is fast approaching and it is estimated that around 16,000 individuals and families can apply in the first wave for the 2021 Resident Visa opening next month. It is exciting for the thousands of people who have been waiting patiently to become residents that finally the finish line is in sight.
The first wave of applicants can apply from 1 December 2021. Around 16,000 applications are expected in this first wave. The second wave opens on 1 March 2022. In total, the government expects approximately 110,000 applications that will include about 165,000 people.
The second group of workers who can apply online for the 2021 Resident Visa that opens on 1 March 2022 are those who hold an eligible work visa and either meet "Settled", "Skilled" or "Scarce" as set out above. In total Immigration NZ estimate around 110,000 people will qualify to apply for this visa.
The first group of workers who can apply online for the 2021 Resident Visa that opens on 1 December 2021 are those that on 29/09/2021:
Is this the only requirement to qualify for residence? No. In addition to the eligible work visa criteria workers also need to be regarded as one of the following:
People who were lawfully in NZ (or in Australia when the travel bubble closed between April and July 2021) on 29/09/2021 need to meet the visa eligibility criteria:
The government has introduced a limited pathway to residence for people who are already living and working in New Zealand. Applications open on 1 December 2021 for the first wave of people eligible to apply. The second wave opens on 1 March 2022. The deadline to apply for the 2021 Resident Visa is 31 July 2022.
A small number of critical health workers (taking up jobs for six months or longer) or specialist workers (taking up jobs that are for longer than six months) who were granted border exemptions may also have eligibility for the 2021 Resident Visa. They will need to have arrived in NZ and lodge a 2021 Resident Visa application.
*Excludes high-risk countries.
*Excludes high-risk countries.
The work visa categories set to close are:
In order to address labour shortages in New Zealand's crucial industries the NZ government has implemented a "Green List" of sought-after high-skill occupations. This list offers a prioritised pathway to residency.
There are qualification and/or occupational registration requirements to meet. Occupations are broken down into two tiers:
The recent additions in May 2023 across many sectors on the Green List NZ can be found here