Changes to the Skilled Migrant Category were announced on 19 April 2017 and will be implemented on 28 August 2017. The Skilled Migrant Category changes are designed to ensure we are attracting migrants who bring the most economic benefits to New Zealand and to improve the skill composition of people gaining residence under the Skilled Migrant Category.
The changes to the Skilled Migrant Category include:
Why is the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) changing?
The Government is committed to ensuring our immigration settings best support the economy and the labour market. These changes are designed to improve the skill composition of the SMC and ensure that it prioritises higher-paid and higher-skilled migrants.
How is the SMC changing?
The SMC is changing to improve the skill composition of people gaining residence under the Skilled Migrant Category and ensure we attract migrants who bring the most economic benefits to New Zealand.
The changes affect many aspects of the policy, including:
Points for employment, work experience and qualifications in identified future growth areas, as well as points for qualifications in areas of absolute skills shortage and points for close family in New Zealand.
When will the changes come into effect?On 28 August 2017.
Are the changes designed to allow fewer people to be granted residence under the SMC?
While there will be an impact on some people in lower-paid employment, the changes expand the definition of skilled employment to allow some people to gain residence who have previously been unable to claim points for their employment in New Zealand – people who are not currently considered to be in skilled employment because their job is not in an Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) skill level 1, 2 or 3 occupation will be able to claim points for their job if they meet the relevant remuneration threshold.
Will particular types of applicants benefit from the changes?
The changes put more focus on skilled work experience, more recognition of skill levels in the 30-39 age group and high remuneration levels.
Are there any changes to the health, character or English language requirements?
Will the selection point change when the new SMC comes into effect?
No, the selection threshold for Expressions of Interest when the new SMC comes into effect will be 160 points. The selection point is able to be adjusted by the Minister of Immigration as necessary for the overall planning range of the New Zealand Residence Programme, so the selection point may change from time to time.
When will the first selection be under the new policy settings?
The first selection will be on Wednesday 6 September 2017.
Has the process for applying for residence under the SMC changed?
No, the process for applying has not changed.
There are four steps:
How will this affect the points awarded?The number of points that people can claim for criteria under the SMC has changed. New requirements may also need to be met to gain these points. Details can be found from here.
What are the specific changes in each policy area?
The key changes for skilled employment points are:
For all occupations, training and experience requirements can also be met by the following:
How will INZ work out whether my remuneration is above the threshold?
INZ will assess your remuneration based on your employment agreement or offer of employment, and may request further information about your pay and hours of work if this is required.
We will calculate remuneration based on payment per hour. Each hour of work must be paid above the applicable per hour remuneration threshold.
If your employment agreement specifies payment other than by hour (such as by salary), we will calculate the payment per hour by dividing the annual salary by 52 weeks, followed by the number of hours that will be worked each week.
If your employment agreement specifies a range of hours, the maximum hours will be used to calculate whether the remuneration threshold is met. If your employment agreement specifies payment by salary and the hours of work vary, we may request evidence of the range of hours to assess whether the different hours worked would result in the per hour rate of pay being below the remuneration threshold.
To work out if you meet the remuneration threshold, we will exclude employment-related allowances (for example tool or uniform allowances) and bonuses which are dependent on performance and include:
Will the remuneration thresholds change?
The remuneration thresholds will be reviewed in November each year, based on information from New Zealand income data.
Skilled work experience
The key changes for skilled work experience points are:
Qualifications, age and partner’s qualifications
Can my application under the SMC be approved if I do not have skilled employment in New Zealand?
To be approved residence, an applicant needs to have either skilled employment in New Zealand (or an offer of skilled employment), or a Master’s degree or Doctorate gained after two years of study in New Zealand. If you are assessed as having sufficient points to meet the selection threshold, and you meet health, character and English language requirements, but do not have skilled employment in New Zealand (or a Master’s degree or Doctorate gained after two years of study in New Zealand), we will defer the decision on your application and invite you to apply for a job search visa. This job search visa will allow you to look for skilled employment in New Zealand. The decision on your residence application will be deferred while you look for skilled employment.
How long can I be in New Zealand on the job search visa?
If you meet the requirements for of the job search visa policy and are already in New Zealand, you will be granted a job search visa valid for 9 months. If you meet the requirements of the job search visa policy and you are outside New Zealand you will be granted a job search visa valid for 12 months.
If I don’t get a skilled job within that timeframe, what will happen to my resident visa application?
Your application for residence under the SMC will be declined.
Can I bring my family with me on the job search visa?
No, the job search visa will only be granted to the principal applicant.
I have employment in New Zealand and the pay for my job is below the threshold, however I am expecting a pay increase – can I submit my Expression of Interest (EOI) now?
You should wait until your pay is above the minimum remuneration threshold. If you claim points for your job in your EOI but your pay is below the threshold, points will not be awarded.
In which areas will points no longer be awarded?
Points will no longer be awarded in the following areas:
These lists are both being removed from Immigration New Zealand’s Operational Manual as they are no longer relevant.
Will there be different remuneration thresholds in different regions of New Zealand?
No there is no regional variation. The remuneration threshold will be the same throughout New Zealand.
Will the new policies affect the way that student visas or post study work visas are assessed?
No. The changes apply to the SMC residence policy. They do not affect the assessment of student visas or post study work visas (including graduate job search or employer assisted).
I’m currently studying towards a PhD, which I expect to complete soon. However, even without points for my PhD or for skilled employment, I think I’m eligible for at least 100 points. Can I submit an Expression of Interest now?
You may wish to wait until you’ve finished your studies, before submitting your EOI. You can submit an EOI, however you will also need to meet the selection threshold to have your EOI assessed and to be invited to apply for residence. After submission to INZ, EOIs remain valid for six months only.
Additionally, an application for residence under SMC cannot be approved unless you have skilled employment, or have completed and been awarded a Doctorate or Master’s degree after at least 2 years’ study in NZ, and you have enough points to meet the selection threshold.
There are students who began their studies under the impression that they would meet the points threshold and be able to apply for SMC. What happens to current students who are worried that they won’t meet SMC requirements because of the recent changes?
While we understand that changes to immigration policies can cause confusion and uncertainty for students, they will need to meet the SMC requirements that apply at the time they lodge their application. People whose EOIs have been selected from the SMC Pool before the change to the policy will be able to apply under the rules in place before 28 August 2017 if their selection results in an invitation to apply.
I have already submitted my SMC application but it has not yet been finalised. What will happen to my application if it’s not decided until after the changes come into effect?
Because your application was submitted before the changes come into effect it will continue to be assessed under the current instructions.
My SMC Expression of Interest (EOI) has been selected from the SMC Pool but I have not yet been invited to apply. If I receive an invitation to apply before the changes come into effect but do not submit my SMC residence application until after the changes, will I be assessed under the current SMC instructions?
If your Invitation to Apply was issued on the basis of a selection from the SMC Pool before the policy change, your application will be assessed under the SMC instructions that were in place at the time your EOI was selected, regardless of whether you application is submitted after the changes come into effect. The application must be received within four months of from the date your Invitation to Apply was issued.
If my EOI is in the Pool on 28 August 2017, what will happen to my EOI?
If your EOI is in the Pool on 28 August 2017 (including if your EOI has been selected and returned to the Pool) you will be able to edit and resubmit your EOI on the new EOI form, at no cost. The new form will reflect the new requirements. However, if as a result of the changes you are no longer able to claim 100 points, your EOI will not be accepted into the Pool.
When you choose to edit the EOI all the answers to the question that have changed will be deleted and you will be required to answer the new questions. If you do not edit and resubmit your EOI your EOI cannot be selected from the Pool.
Does my job need to be included in the List of skilled occupations (Appendix 6 of the INZ Operational Manual)?
No. Under the new rules, occupations at all Australia and New Zealand (ANZSCO) levels can be assessed if the relevant remuneration thresholds are met (for jobs at ANZSCO skill levels 1, 2 or 3 at least $23.49 per hour and for jobs at skill level 4 or 5 at least $35.24 per hour).
I have a qualification included on the Long Term Skill Shortage List (LTSSL) – can I claim extra points for this qualification?
No. Under the new rules there are no bonus points for qualifications in areas of absolute skill shortage and column 4 of the LTTSL, which included these qualifications, will be removed.
When I am granted residence will conditions be imposed on my resident visa?
Conditions will be imposed if you haven’t yet taken up your offer of skilled employment or you haven’t been in your current skilled employment for three months or more at the time we assess your application. One of those conditions will be that you continue to be paid at or above level of remuneration for which skilled employment points where awarded to you, during the period for which conditions are imposed. Conditions may be imposed for 3 or 12 months.
I have a qualification that has been assessed as being at level 3 of the New Zealand Qualifications Framework. Can I claim points for this qualification?
You can only claim points for your level 3 qualification if it is included on the List of Qualifications Exempt from Assessment (LQEA) and it is relevant to an occupation at ANZSCO level 3 or below. The only level 3 qualifications included on the LQEA are particular trade and technical qualifications from South Africa and the United Kingdom.