NEW ZEALAND: Changes to the Skilled Migrant Category from August 2017

On 19th April 2017, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse announced that changes to the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC), including new minimum salary requirements, will take effect on 14th August 2017.

What is the Skilled Migrant Category?

With a Skilled Migrant Category resident visa, a qualifying applicant can live and work in New Zealand indefinitely. A points-based system is used to assess applicants against the selection criteria.

What is the current situation?

At the moment, an employee can claim points towards residence, if they have a “skilled” job. A “skilled” job is one that substantially matches an official description (called an ANZSCO description) that is included in a list of “skilled” jobs published by Immigration New Zealand.

The employee must prove their job matches one of the descriptions included in the “skilled” list and that they are earning the market rate for that job.

An employee needs 160 points to get residence.  A skilled job counts for at least 50 of those points.  Therefore, most applicants need to have a “skilled” job to get residence.

How will the requirements change?

After 14th August, an employee earning less than NZD 73,299 will still need to show that his or her job substantially matches with a description for a job included in the “skilled list”.  However, they must also show that they are earning more than NZD 48,859 per annum.

This means that applicants earning less than NZD 48,859 per annum are unlikely to get residence, even if the job is very skilled.  For example, chefs, restaurant managers, retail managers and people working in manufacturing often earn less than this.

Conversely, an employee earning at least NZD 73,299 per annum will not need to show that his or her job substantially matches with one that is included on the skilled list.  The salary alone will be enough to claim points for skilled employment. What other changes are there?

The new policy has not yet been published, but the other, positive changes will include:

  • Bonus points for a job earning more than $97,718 per annum
  • Additional points will be available for work experience
  • There will be additional points for having a Master or Doctorate level qualification
  • The number of points awarded to applicants aged between 30 and 39 will increase

The less positive changes are:

  • Applicants will not be able to claim points for a partner’s qualification unless the qualification is at least the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree
  • Additional points will not be awarded for qualifications relevant to a job on the Long-Term Skill Shortage List
  • Additional points will not be awarded for employment, work experience or qualifications in one of the identified future growth areas, such as information and communications technology
  • Additional points will not be awarded for having a New Zealand resident parent, sibling or child

What do the changes mean?

It will be a lot more difficult for people who are doing skilled work, but in lower paid industries, to qualify for residence.  The hospitality, manufacturing and IT industries may be affected. However, it may be a lot easier for applicants who are paid well, but whose jobs do not nicely match with a “skilled” job description to qualify for residence.  For example, people working in construction management jobs may qualify more readily for residence.

Our advice

Those intending to apply for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category should obtain professional advice. It may be important to submit an application before these changes take effect.

For advice on this topic or for information on New Zealand immigration in general,  please contact us at enquiries@newlandchase.com.

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