Skilled Migrant Residence Category

Those already in New Zealand and holding an offer of employment must explore the Skilled Migrant Category for residence in the light of the ongoing changes.

Our team of Immigration Advisers at Professional Visa Solutions wish to share our knowledge, experiences and insights particularly during these COVID-19 impacted times in relation to those seeking to gain permanent residence in New Zealand based on their vocational skills and other attributes. The visa avenue most commonly used is the Skilled Migrant Category.

For those already in New Zealand and holding an offer of employment, it is worthwhile exploring this avenue toward residence as soon as possible as changes have occurred and are likely to continue to occur which could affect eligibility. For those who have already expressed their interest formally and/or have made application, there are things you need to be aware of and areas where Immigration New Zealand need to be made of any changes to your circumstances which could be due to COVID-19 impact. For those offshore seeking permanent entry to New Zealand, the challenge is grand.

If you have lost your job due to COVID-19 and have commenced undertakings toward applying for residence, an Immigration approved service exists which assists those affected called the newcomer skills matching and job search assistance service programme:

Those with an expression of interest submitted to the pool can find news on postponement of selection and those with applications lodged awaiting processing here:

Read on to find out more about the current situation and future predictions.

Overview of Skilled Migrant Category with Change Information

This category is complex. This is why we would like to take this opportunity to capture the fundamentals for easier understanding in the following overview.

The New Zealand Permanent Residence Programme includes a Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) category. This category provides the grant of residence to those who demonstrate they have transferrable skills to fill identified needs and opportunities, contribute to and successfully settle in New Zealand.

The main applicant can be awarded points based on their skills, qualifications and experience, employment offer and other positive factors and includes the provision for accompanying partner’s skills for additional points. Applicants will need to meet health and character requirements and have a degree of English ability.

Migrants seeking a permanent stay based on their employability attributes may also consider another available category, Residence from Work, although this category binds an applicant to a two year work visa initially and strict conditions need to be met before able to seek residence whereas the Skilled Migrant Category allows commencement of the process at any time.

The SMC process involves a two-stage approach. Firstly, an Expression of Interest (EOI) must be submitted to Immigration New Zealand (INZ) where prerequisites need to be met for health, character, English language and age. Points totalling 100 or more for employment and capacity building factors are entered into a Pool for selection fortnightly over a six month period. Points totalling 160 or more will be selected automatically from the pool. Secondly, if selected, an invitation to apply (ITA) valid for four months may be given where full determination will be conducted by INZ upon application made including all relevant documentation and information. INZ are able to consider deferral of an application where an applicant meets all requirements although does not have points for skilled employment or meet certain study requirements in New Zealand.

With COVID-19 impacting the “normal” manner in which rules apply to this residence category, particularly INZ processing matters, and before going any further in our presented information, we will point out the key aspects of the current situation and what we predict could occur going forward:

  • The selection of existing EOI’s is currently on-hold by INZ, this will be reviewed in April 2021. The Government is under increasing pressure to stimulate the economy through migrant labour and settlement, hence some selection concessions may be given although rules could tighten in terms of eligibility.
  • Applicants are still able to make an EOI at this time. It is worth considering this if your age is near the change threshold resulting in loss of points, your employment is likely to remain stable, your temporary visa validity remaining time is 12 months or less.
  • The points threshold could rise, rendering only those with EOI’s currently submitted who meet this invited to apply with remaining others given the option to withdraw (with possible fee refund) or be entered into a selection pool in which successful drawing from the pool being dependent on whether overall migrant targets are being met through those who automatically qualify.
  • Those with applications under consideration following an invitation to apply could face closer scrutiny in terms of their offer of skilled employment particularly in-line with certain work visa category objectives.
  • The way in which points are allocated for attributes could change, particularly in the areas of qualification, skilled work experience and/or skilled employment offer.
  • INZ make the comparability of skills required for an offer of employment (called ANZSCO) redundant and implements its own list of occupations it considers as skilled employment.
  • The salary threshold INZ associates with skilled employment is raised again.
  • The salary threshold INZ associates with skilled employment is raised again.

These factors could affect those awaiting any selection following EOI and/or those with applications lodged following an ITA. It really is up to Government to determine the rules, but they must consider the long-standing objectives of this category, that is, growing New Zealand’s capabilities, global connectedness and thriving inclusive communities. Uncertainty around the direction New Zealand will take leaves many feeling very anxious. If you are worried about what the impact of any potential changes will have on you, please discuss your individual situation with an Adviser from Professional Visa Solutions.

This information is not official and is our educated/experienced take on matters.

The Current Fundamental Factors Which Need to be Met Are Outlined Below

Description of Base-Requirements Under Skilled Migrant Category

Points for Employability and Capacity Building Factors:


Points are awarded to the main (principal) applicant at increments, decreasing as they age. An applicant does not qualify to apply under SMC if aged 56 years or over. An applicant could still apply, knowing the application would be declined, and seek to appeal the decision based on exceptional circumstances. The ideal age bracket to obtain maximum points is between 20 and 39. If the applicant turns 40 years of age before an Invitation to Apply is given, they lose 10 points, which could impact on meeting the points threshold.

Skilled Employment:

This is based on an offer of employment by a New Zealand based employer. Fundamentally, skilled employment is defined as that which meets a minimum remuneration threshold and requires specialist, technical or management expertise obtained through relevant qualifications and/or work experience, which is based on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO), which is publically available online. The duties associated with the offered role must substantially match the ANZSCO description of the intended occupation and offered remuneration must meet INZ requirements. An applicant will need to demonstrate they are suitably qualified for the employment by training and/or experience corresponding to the skill level of the occupation offered, or, the occupation is featured on the INZ Long Term Shortage List. INZ also require that an acceptable qualification, in relation to an offer of skilled employment, must be relevant and be at the required level on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF) as assessed by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) that corresponds to the skill level described for an applicant’s skill level. Certain qualifications are exempt from NZQA assessment. Lastly, the offer of skilled employment must be genuine, ongoing and sustainable.

Recognised Qualifications:

Qualifications are assessed at the level indicated on the NZQF. The aim of providing points for qualifications is to recognise the importance of qualifications as an indicator of ability to obtain skilled employment in New Zealand and to increase New Zealand's capability. Points are only awarded by INZ for the highest recognised qualification.

Skilled Work Experience:

Work experience is required to be readily transferable, enable the obtaining of skilled employment and enhance ability to contribute to New Zealand economically and socially. Points can be awarded if the work undertaken substantially matched the description for that occupation as per ANZSCO and the applicant was suitably qualified prior to undertaking that work and it is comparable to the New Zealand labour market. Calculations of work experience must be for complete weeks based on a 30-hour week minimum but can be calculated proportionally if part-time and points are awarded based on every two completed years of work experience. Only lawful employment whilst holding appropriate status in any country can be considered. Some vocations require occupational registration, and only experience obtained whilst holding this may be considered.

Bonus Points:

Having an offer of employment outside the boundary of Auckland is highly advantageous, and could make all the difference in reaching the points passmark for automatic selection from the pool.

Having a high salary position offered attracting NZ$51 per hour gross income ($106,080 per annum for a 40 hour week) is also advantageous.

An offer of skilled employment in an absolute skill shortage vocation (features on the long term skills shortage list) is also beneficial.

Points can be awarded for skilled work experience in New Zealand, although a minimum of one year is required and the same rules as per skilled work experience apply. An applicant can “double dip”, that is, New Zealand work experience can also be counted to form overall work experience claim for points.

Points can also be awarded for work experience in a recognised skill shortage field as listed in the long term skills shortage list. Occupational registration requirements may apply.

Bonus points can also be given for qualifications gained in New Zealand. Points differ depending on the qualification gained.

Included dependent partner qualifications can also be awarded points, depending on the qualification held and level of English ability.

English Language Requirement:

Principal applicants, their included partners and any dependent children 16 years and older, must have a minimum standard of English to enable successful settlement and skilled employment in New Zealand. This can be evidenced in a number of ways, including via certain citizenships, qualification and undergoing a recognised English language test. Dependents included in an application have the concession to pre-purchase English tuition, the amount charged at time of grant of residence depends on the resulting score from a recognised test score. Official English language test results in all cases are valid for two years at the time of application lodgement (providing INZ with all supporting documentary evidence once Invited to Apply), so it is worthwhile ensuring plenty of time remains valid in order to avoid undergoing another test.

Health Requirement:

All applicants must be deemed to have an acceptable standard of health unless granted a medical waiver. INZ approved medical assessment (through medical and X-ray certificates) must be undertaken once an invitation to apply is given. These are valid for three months at the time an application is made.

Character Requirement:

All applicants aged 17 and over are required to be of good character and not pose a potential security risk unless granted a character waiver. Applicants must present police or similar certificates, less than 6 months old, from their country of citizenship and each country in which they have lived for 12 months or more (in total) in the last 10 years once an invitation to apply is given.

Description of Base-Requirements Under Skilled Migrant Category

A fee is applicable at the time a request is made. Applicants need to be aware that all information presented to INZ in an EOI request must be factually accurate and relevant. Any false or misleading information presented to INZ which comes to light is considered grounds for decline of any application or request and could render an applicant liable for deportation at any time. It is extremely important not to misrepresent in employability and capability building factors in the claim of points particularly at this stage in the process.

Once submitted, it is of utmost importance to seek to inform Immigration New Zealand of any change in circumstances which could impact on any immigration matters pertaining to any request or application made. Not doing so could have dire consequences if comes to light at a later stage. If in doubt, seek advice from industry advisers like us.

Invitation to Apply (ITA) and subsequent application matters

Once INZ have considered the expression of interest and selection to apply is given (Invitation to Apply), all required documentation must be provided in an application for residence within four months. An application fee also needs to be paid. Application processing times are lengthy, and dependent on a number of factors including any areas where INZ deem verification is necessary. These areas are wide and varied. To minimise the impact of such verification, applicants are encouraged to prepare well in advance to anticipate that this could occur. Commonly, the areas of skilled employment and work experience should be prepared for well, hence it is worthwhile seeking professional advice early on in a migrant’s immigration endeavours.

It is important to ensure all applicants retain a lawful temporary visa status if in New Zealand and wish to remain whilst residence matters are underway. The fact that a residence avenue has been sought does not assure the grant of any temporary visa. Applicants should allow ample time to apply before any current temporary visa expires. Don’t leave temporary visa matters to the last minute, particularly during pandemic times, as rules are frequently adjusted in light of this. Again, discussions should be had with immigration professionals.

It is worth noting that conditions pertaining to employment particularly could be imposed upon the grant of residence in New Zealand. It maybe that an applicant needs to take up their offer of skilled employment within three months and remain in their job for 12 months with sufficient remuneration. Additionally, the grant of initial residence is generally for a period of two years during which time an applicant must demonstrate a commitment to New Zealand in order to qualify for an indefinite stay permanent resident visa. It is worth thinking ahead about how committed a principal applicant will be to staying in New Zealand.

Are you overseas and seeking residence in New Zealand?

Enquiries from those based outside New Zealand interested in permanent migration to New Zealand remains steady, particularly those with skills in health, technology, management, trade industry and infrastructure areas. It certainly helps to have an offer of employment, particularly outside the Auckland area at this time as bodes well with Government’s drive to direct people traffic toward smaller centres in need of quality labour.

We do not offer a job find service, although we are happy to discuss matters with an offering employer once you obtain an offer. A great place to start looking for work is with these popular job seeker websites:

What can you do to avoid disappointment?

We encourage discussing your situation with an Adviser from Professional Visa Solutions today. You will be surprised with our ability to alleviate your concerns.

If you are at the EOI or ITA stages already, it is worth seeking our professional representation now so costly mistakes are avoided.

If you are looking to commence proceedings toward residence, now is a good time to act. A discussion with one of our Advisers is well worth it. We will easily determine viability and recommend where to from here.

Why use Professional Visa Solutions?

Professionals like us are here to help navigate the maze and aid in your desires to settle in New Zealand during these tough times.

It is important to get it right first time to avoid hassles and further associated costs. The experienced and dedicated team at Professional Visa Solutions will ensure we work closely with you, any supportive family members and any employer, every step of the way. From gaining deep understanding of the nature of your situation to devise the best approach going forward, providing exemplary tailored guidance and advice throughout and aiding in the formulation of evidential submissions, with the sole objective to gain residence for you. All done to our high service standards with respect and confidentiality.

All at very competitive prices tailored to your situation and needs.

Book a consultation with an expert Immigration Adviser today.

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