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What you need to know about changes in New Zealand's Skilled Migration Program

When economic tectonic plates misaligned with migration programs, skilled migrant applicants feel the tremor. To know how you may absorb the shocks or stay away from faults, we are sharing the official information from the New Zealand Immigration Service website.

Crispin ArandaOriginally posted on April 20, 2017; updated April 20, 2017

What you need to know about changes in New Zealand's Skilled Migration Program

FAQs on Changes to New Zealand Skilled Migrant Category by 14 August 2017

Why are amendments being made?

Like Australia and other countries with permanent migration programs, New Zealand wants to improve the skill composition and ensure” that the country is “attracting migrants who bring the most economic benefits to New Zealand. Towards this end, some of the key changes being considered are:

  • How ‘skilled employment’ and ‘work experience’ are assessed and awarded points.
  • The points awarded for qualifications and age.
  • Points for some factors will be removed.

What are the changes being considered?

After increasing the total points needed to be invited to apply for residency (from 140 to 160), the selection system had been “realigned” giving preference to characteristics that would enhance “better outcomes for migrants:” hence the emphasis on increasing the minimum income required for jobs being offered to support a migrant’s application for permanent residency.

The New Zealand median income (NZMI) for jobs considered skilled had been set at $48,859 a year. An NZMI of 1.5 times the median income of $73,299 a year is required for “jobs that are not currently considered skilled, but are well paid.”

More points will be available for skilled work experience and some recognised post graduate qualifications, and points for age will increase for applicants aged 30-39.

Bonus points withdrawn. Before the changes, applicants with qualifications in areas of absolute skills shortage; in Identified Future Growth Areas and for those with close family in New Zealand are no longer available.

Would the proposed changes result in fewer people to be granted residence under the SMC?

Apparently, people in “low-paid employment” are likely to be affected.  However, he changes expand the definition of skilled employment to allow some people to obtain 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 are earning $73,299 or more per year.


What would be the profile of a successful applicant for residency with these changes?

Applicants with the appropriate skilled work experience, commensurate high salary and skill levels within the 30-39 age group are likely to benefit.

What are the specific changes in each policy area?

The New Zealand Immigration Service’s website provies the following information:

  • The same number of points will be awarded for both an offer of skilled employment and current skilled employment in New Zealand.
  • Remuneration thresholds are being introduced as an additional means of defining skilled employment.
  • Applicants with jobs at ANZSCO skill levels 1, 2 and 3 will only be awarded points for their employment if they are paid at or above NZ$48,859 per year (or NZ$23.49 per hour).
  • Applicants with jobs that are not in ANZSCO skill level 1, 2 or 3 occupations may be assessed as being in skilled employment if they are paid at or above NZ$73,299 per year (or NZ$35.24 per hour).
  • Bonus points will be awarded for remuneration at or above NZ$97,718.00 per year (or NZ$46.98 per hour)
  • Remuneration thresholds will be updated annually based on New Zealand income data.

Work experience

  • More points will be available for work experience.
  • Points will be awarded for skilled work experience in ANZSCO skill level 1, 2 and 3 occupations.
  • Points will be awarded for skilled New Zealand work experience of 12 months or more. There will be no additional points for work experience of two years or more.

Qualifications, age and partner’s qualifications

  • Points available for recognised level 9 or 10 post-graduate qualifications (Master’s degrees and Doctorates) will increase.
  • Points for people aged 30 – 39 years will increase.
  • Partner’s qualifications will only be awarded points if they are a recognised Bachelor’s level degree or higher or a recognised post-graduate (level 9 or higher) qualification.

Are there any changes to the health, character or English language requirements?


Will the selection point change when the new SMC comes into effect?

The selection point has been adjusted as necessary “for the overall planning range of the New Zealand Residence Programme.” Currently, there is no information on where the selection point will be set when the new Skilled Migrant Category is implemented.

Are further changes in the salary thresholds expected?

The basis for setting a salary threshold depends on information from New Zealand income data, hence the need for an annual review.

What happens to SMC applications not yet finalized or if no decision has been made afer 14 August 2017?

Such applications “will continue to be assessed under the current instructions.”.

If an invitation to apply was issued before 14 August but the SMC residence application is submitted after 14 August, which instructions would apply?

The application will be assessed “under the SMC instructions that were in place at the time the Expression of Interest was selected, regardless of whether the application is submitted after 14 August.  However,  the standard four-moth limit to submit the application still applies.

How about EOIs selected from the SMC Pool “before 14 August” but were then returned to the Pool for not meeting the minimum points (at the time the EOI is returned to the pool)?

For Expressions of Interest selected but subsequently returned to the pool for failure to meet the requirements to be issued an Invitation to Apply under the adjusted rules, applicants may resubmit without charge.  However, “if, as a result of the changes, (the applicant) is no longer able to claim 100 points, the EoI will not be accepted into the Pool.”

When will more detailed information be available about the changes to the SMC?

NZIS said it hopes “to have more information available in June 2017.”


Authors & Contributors

Crispin Aranda

Crispin Aranda

Crispin R. Aranda is an established International Visa Conselor and Immigrant Advocate. He is the president of IVC and is in several migration radio programs.

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