Skilled Migrants


The Skilled Migrant Category or "SMC" is New Zealand's flagship residence category. It also currently has a decline rate of around 20%. Much higher in some work categories, such as Retail Managers.


Around 94% of applicants apply after first coming to New Zealand on a temporary visa of some kind.


Almost all will hold a skilled job or job offer in order to be granted residence.  This raises a well-known Catch-22 of having to have the job to get the visa, when many employers still insist on you having the visa to apply for the job.  At Into NZ we can help you break down that Catch-22 barrier - see our job search support section for more details.


To qualify you must be:


  • under 56

  • in satisfactory health

  • a competent user of English (IELTS 6.5 or equivalent unless exempt)

  • of "good character" 


You also need to have enough points to be selected from the fortnightly pool draw.  


As from 12 October 2016 the points threshold was significantly raised to 160 whether including or excluding points for skilled employment.  Far more applicants also now need to sit and pass English language tests. Aside from graduates of degree or higher qualifications from NZ/Australia/UK/USA/Canada/Republic of Ireland only citizens of the latter 5 countries who have lived and worked there for at least 5 years are exempt.  This means, for example, a South African citizen who is completely bilingual and has qualified in RSA must sit one of the tests.


Employer compliance and sustainability of skilled employment have also become new battlegrounds. 


On 28 August 2017, the rules were changed with far-reaching consequences. The key changes were:


  • to the points system - increased points for the 30-39 year olds; removal of future growth points; increased points for Masters and PHDs; removal of points for close family support; reduced points for NZ work experience; increased points for work experience (but see below for the catch); 20 bonus points for those earning $50 per hour+

  • ability to now claim points for skilled employment that does not fit with the ANZSCO or is classified as low-skilled if paying $36.44 per hour (not likely to be of much practical use at this wage threshold!)

  • restrictions on type of work experience that can be claimed - only "skilled" work experience can now be claimed.  Previously any experience relevant to skilled employment or to a recognised qualification could be claimed

  • if applying without a job or job offer, removal of the ability to be granted residence outright unless you have completed a 2 year Masters or PHD in New Zealand.


These new rules have seen some winners, but mostly losers and some unintended consequences.  One of the most significant impacts has been the inability to claim for work experience that is not deemed skilled.  The way this is worded has introduced new shades of grey as immigration officers are forced to assess work experience as against the ANZSCO (Australia and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations). For those well versed in immigration policies, it is already well known that the ANZSCO can be extremely difficult to apply. 


One thing is sure: the playing field became a whole lot more complicated.  With a detailed understanding of the new instructions, we are able to offer expert guidance on what Immigration New Zealand is looking for.


The challenge of having skilled employment remains.  In general terms if you are job seeking and are not working in a shortage area and are not already in New Zealand you can expect to find it difficult to break into our labour market.  


If you do already have a job offer, we can assess that job.  If we believe it doesn't yet meet the criteria but has the potential, in time, to do so, we can work proactively with you and your employer to help you meet the target.  


If you don't yet have a job offer, we can provide on-the-ground advice as to your realistic job prospects as well as job search support in certain situations.


Complete an easy eligiblity NZ Visa Check today to kickstart getting the right advice about your move to NZ.

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