Skilled Migrant Category Residence Visa

The Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) has traditionally been New Zealand’s main residence visa category to grant residence to people with specific skills to contribute to New Zealand’s economic growth.

As part of rebuilding the NZ economy after the Covid pandemic, the NZ Government is rebalancing the immigration system to make it easier to attract and hire high-skilled migrants. The aim is to achieve a higher-productivity, higher-wage economy.

To achieve this, the following four changes are expected for the Skilled Migrant Category:

  • A simplified points system, where applicants must have at least 6 points to be eligible. Points can be made up of one of three skill categories - professional registration, qualifications, or high income. People working in New Zealand in a skilled job can add 1 point per year, up to a maximum of 3 points for three years.
  • Special requirements for people in particular occupations, e.g., retail and hospitality, to manage immigration and labour market risks while granting residence to highly skilled people in these occupations.
  • A stand-down period is a requirement for migrants who do not meet the residence criteria. After a maximum of 3 years on an Accredited Employer Work Visa, people must spend at least 12 months outside New Zealand.
  • Processing all applications that meet the eligibility criteria so that more migrants will gain residence yearly. The simplified process proposed, will ensure faster decision making thereby reducing the waiting time.

The new Skilled Migrant Category will give more certainty to skilled migrant workers and their families to make informed decisions about their immigration options.

*It is important to note the above is not written into policy as yet, and the Ministry of Business,Innovation and Employment is still in consultation with various industry bodies and agencies, thereafter they will present the proposed changes to the New Zealand Government. Accepted changes are expected to be introduced mid-2023