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How to achieve New Zealand residence with the skilled migrant visa

Employment Visa New Zealand Immigration Advisers

If you have specialised skills and are keen to move to New Zealand, the ‘skilled migrant’ category resident visa could be the doorway that gets you in.​​

New Zealand’s government immigration organisation – Immigration New Zealand (INZ) – is always looking for people with valuable skills and qualifications. If you qualify for the skilled migrant visa, it’s possible you could work and live in New Zealand permanently. Also, a successful application can extend to your partner and any dependent children under the age of 24. In other words, the skilled migrant resident visa works for the whole family.

What does it take to get a skilled migrant visa?

INZ uses a points-based system to see if you qualify for the skilled migrant visa. You are allocated points based on criteria like your age (you need to be less than 56 years old), skills, qualifications, and years of work experience. Most importantly you will an offer of skilled employment in a position that matches your abilities and qualifications. At the moment INZ is only interested in people who score 160 points or more.​

There are other requirements too, which are relevant to other New Zealand work-related visas. These include:

  • Good health – this means you are unlikely to be a danger to public health and unlikely to put undue demands on New Zealand’s health services
  • Good character – this means you have no convictions for violence, prohibited drugs,  dishonesty etc and don’t pose a security risk to New Zealand
  • Have a high level of English

You can read more in our comprehensive skilled migrant resident visa guide

See how your points add up

​INZ has an online points indicator for assessing whether you will meet the requirements of the skilled migrant visa. It includes questions about age, employment offers, location of employment offers, recognised qualifications and work experience.  Using this online tool will give you a rough idea of whether you have a chance of success with a skilled migrant visa application.

If you use the indicator and come up with a score that’s less than 160, don’t despair. Talking to an experienced licensed immigration adviser could help you to maximise your points score. Its worth getting a professional assessment of exactly what your points score is.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are unlikely to have enough points to apply you can look at temporary work visas or see if you qualify for an essential skill work visa until you are able to build up your points score. 

Understand the value of the skill shortage lists

​It’s possible your skills will fit one of the occupations on the INZ’s skill shortage lists. There are lists for long-term skill shortages, regional skill shortages, and construction and infrastructure skill shortages. You can find a list checker tool on the INZ website or you can ask your immigration adviser. If you have skills in more than one occupation, keep an open mind when you’re considering the lists.

Submit an EOI (expression of interest)

​Once you’re confident you have a points total of 160 or more, and you have evidence to back up each one of your claims, it’s time to submit an EOI to INZ. At this point, it’s really valuable to have a licensed immigration adviser helping you along. Look for someone from a respected immigration consultancy.

Due to Covid 19 there have not been any selections of EOIs since March 2020. There is the risk rules may change so getting up to date advice is paramount before you start keying in data or pushing submit.

Wait for your ITA

​Pre Covid once an EOI is select, you would normally receive an ITA (invitation to apply) from INZ. It’s not possible to apply for a skilled migrant visa until an ITA has been sent to you. Once again, your best support for a successful application will come from a licensed immigration adviser. You definitely don’t want to mess up the application process, because you could end up back at square one again. Right now, ITAs are not being issued so getting proper advice avoids disappointment, stress and wasted money.​

Don’t hold your breath​

The process of getting a points indication, submitting an expression of interest, waiting for an invitation to apply and actually applying can take many months. As they say, good things come to those who wait. Your immigration adviser might be able to estimate the time it will take, but only INZ has any control over processing times.

Cost of applying for a skilled migrant visa

​If you really want to live in New Zealand and the skilled migrant visa is your best shot, it makes sense to invest in a quality evaluation and application process. By having an expert by your side to ensure you do everything correctly and maximise your chances of receiving an ITA, you can greatly increase your chances of success. Plus right now with so many restrictions on visa processing due to Covid expert advice is invaluable.

Yes, it will cost you a few thousand dollars. No, you won’t regret it. The chance to live in one of the most desirable countries in the world is a rare opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted.

If you are successful, conditions will apply

Getting a visa, settling in New Zealand and turning up for your job aren’t the only steps towards living permanently in Aotearoa. Under the conditions of your visa, you must abide by a number of rules, including:

  • If you were awarded points for a job offer in Auckland, you must take up that job within three months of arriving in New Zealand, stay in the job for at least three months and continue to be paid at or above the level of remuneration for which points were awarded to you for at least three months.
  • If you were awarded points for a job offer in any other part of New Zealand, you must take up that job within three months of arriving in New Zealand, stay in the job for at least 12 months and continue to be paid at or above the level of remuneration for which points were awarded to you for at least 12 months.

There are several other rules too, which your immigration adviser will explain to you in detail. If you’re ever worried about breaching the rules while you’re living and working in New Zealand under a skilled migrant visa, you can call your adviser for help.

Using an immigration adviser will boost your chances of success. Read more on how to choose the best immigration adviser in Auckland or the best immigration adviser in Wellington.  

Note: This article is about Immigration Policy but is not a description of policy. Seek expert advice to assess and receive specific advice on personal situations before lodging a visa application.