On 21 June 2023 outgoing Minister of Immigration Michael Wood announced the biggest change to the Skilled Migrant visa in many years. A review was signalled months earlier and we now have the details. In this update we:
- Summarize key changes
- Explain the timeframe
- Indicate some winners and losers
The aim is to give certainty to migrants on their eligibility.
- Those who qualify for work visas but not residence will face a 5-year maximum visa time after which they will need to leave New Zealand.
- There will be clearer criteria with a faster pathway to residence for highly skilled people, but the question is whether the government has drawn the line in the right place.
The 2-step process of Expression of Interest “EOI,” Invitation to Apply “ITA” is replaced by a single direct application with no more draws from the pool, but the questions will still be whether processing times in this new category will be reasonable.
Simplified Points – Job Offer or Employment at Median Wage Are Mandatory
The current 180 points will be replaced by a new 6 point system brought in to give certainty to migrants on their eligibility and clearer criteria with a faster pathway to residence for highly skilled people. A recognised tertiary qualification (or occupational registration or being paid twice the median wage) generate most of the points. Employment or a job offer are now mandatory. Applicants must be paid at the median wage(reviewed annually: currently $29.66) for at least 30 hours per week. The table below gives a good explanation:
You Must Have a Job Offer of Skilled Employment Relevant to Your Qualification And/or Experience.
To be considered a skilled job, the job or job offer must be:
- at least 30 hours a week.
- either in an ANZSCO Level 1 to 3 occupation and paid at or above the median wage, or in an ANZSCO Level 4 to 5 occupation and paid at or above 1.5 times the median wage.
- on a permanent contract or fixed-term contract for at least 12 months. For a 40-hour week 1.5 times the median wage would currently require a gross salary of $92,539.
Essentially applicants will need to have a job offer and 6 points which would be made up in the following way:
- 3 to 6 points will be based on their New Zealand professional registration or qualifications or income.
- 1 point (up to a maximum of 3 points) for each year working in New Zealand in a skilled job being paid at least the median wage.
You can claim 3 to 6 points from your:
- New Zealand occupational registration-this applies to limited occupations you can search here
- Qualification (Bachelor’s degree or higher- a PhD against the full 6 points, no work experience is then needed but simply a job offer, a Master’s degree will get you 5 points requiring a years experience on a sliding scale down to bachelor’s degree requiring 3 years skilled work experience
- You can claim 3-6 points for income from your job or job offer (earning at least 1.5 to 3 times the median wage in New Zealand).
- These streams are separate and cannot be “mixed and matched.”
- Skilled work experience in New Zealand
You will be able to claim 1 point for each year of skilled work experience you have in New Zealand, up to a maximum of 3 points. Overseas work experience will no longer be relevant to claim points.
The skilled work experience must be in a full-time job (minimum of 30 hours a week). There is also a wage threshold depending on the ANZSCO level of the job. For example:
- For skilled level 1-3 roles you need to be paid $29.66
- For skilled level 4 and 5 roles you need to be paid $44.49.
Further details will be released shortly about when skilled work experience starts and stops being counted. We understand applicants do not need to have a continuous pay rise in line with the applicable threshold, but must provide evidence of meeting the wage threshold at both the beginning and end of your skilled work experience period.
Median Wage Changes
It is also good to be aware that the median wage in New Zealand is updated annually. These changes will happen in February 2024 and will need to be taken into consideration for any applications after this date.
The Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) is also being extended from three to five years, and a five-year maximum continuous stay for this category is being introduced. There are no more bonus points.
English-language, health and character requirements remain the same.
The last EOI selection under the current Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa will be on Wednesday 16 August 2023. You can submit an EOI from now until 23:59, Tuesday 15 August 2023. These changes will be in place from 9 October 2023 tantalisingly close to the scheduled election date of 14 October 2023.
In other words what is effectively a new Skilled Migrant Category will have been fully operationalised and have applications flowing in before a new government is able to review and make changes.
Winners and losers
Those with a tertiary qualification particularly at the higher end (honours, masters or even PhD) will now face a reduced requirement for work experience although the work experience for all but PhD graduates will need to be in New Zealand and at median wage to count.
Those with occupational registration or who are paid at least 1.5 times median wage will need 3 years work experience plus employment or job offer. Offshore work experience no longer counts.
Those with qualifications below bachelors level e.g., industry-based experience this will potentially affect many thousands of applicants including highly skilled trades people in occupations that do not require registration but are nevertheless inconsiderable shortage. They would need to spend 3 years on that and will go nowhere unless the salary is at least $44.49 per hour or unless that meets 1 of the other green list qualifications or exceptions. If you’re in that position but could possibly apply under the current category you should urgently seek advice before August 2023.
We can help
Does the new SMC category offer you or your business opportunity or challenge? Or are you not sure?
Our friendly team would be delighted to help. Director and Senior Lawyer Richard Small and Senior Associate Diana Bell between them have decades of experience charting a path through changing immigration instructions. Contact us by email Office@pacificlegal.co.nz through our web form or by phone on +64 9 6566 0440.
Note this general information was up-to-date as it 28 June 2023. Immigration instructions change over time and every situation is different. Contact us directly for specific advice in your case.
This article is co-authored by: