NEW ZEALAND: Significant Changes to Residence Programme

In a bid to kerb the record-high net immigration, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has introduced stricter standards for residence applications of migrants. The New Zealand Residence Programme is the route through which residence applications for skilled workers, investors, entrepreneurs and their accompanying dependents are considered. As a reaction to the high net immigration figures, INZ has made significant changes to this programme, which came into effect as of 12th October.

New English Language Requirements

Applicants that are citizens of Canada, the Republic of Ireland, the UK or the US will not be affected by this new stricter requirement.  Applicants could previously meet the English language requirement based on the length of their stay in an English-Speaking country, 12 months previous full-time skilled employment in New Zealand, or their country of citizenship. However, with the introduction of the new rules all applicants and dependants over the age of 16 years must ensure that they meet one of the following standards:

  • A recognised Level 7 bachelor”s degree earned from an institution in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, the UK, or the U.S. after two years of study; or
  • A recognised Level 8 qualification earned in Australia, the Republic of Ireland, the UK, or the U.S. after one year of study; or
  • A test report from the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) showing an overall band score of at least 6.5.

New Points Based Thresholds

Applications under the skilled migrant category of residence are governed by the points based system. Previously, any foreign national wanting to automatically qualify had to reach a points minimum of 140. INZ have now increased this threshold to a points requirement of 160 to automatically qualify. If applicants do not qualify for automatic approval they may still be considered as an Expression of Interest (EOIs); providing they total 100 points and have a job offer in New Zealand.


In light of these new stricter rules, Immigration Advisors are recommending that applicants look to assess their current educational credentials. To meet the new criteria the qualification will have to either:

  • Be on the INZ”s published list of recognised qualifications; or
  • Pass the qualification assessment from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority; or
  • The applicant will have to undertake the IELTS exam.

Applicants will, therefore, have to reassess their eligibility if they no longer meet the language requirements, and may possibly have to send their education qualification to be assessed by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority or if this fails, undertake the IELTS exam.

Companies employing foreign nationals are also recommended to start planning for the additional cost and time restraints due to the stricter requirements for skilled migrants. When employing nationals from outside of Canada, the Republic of Ireland, the UK, and the US companies must be mindful that applicants may need to obtain NZQA assessments or IELTS test reports for applicants.

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