MIGRATION

RV – Skilled Migrant Category: 6-point System

On October 9th, 2023, the New Zealand Government will implement a new points system for the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) Resident Visa. This update is designed to streamline the application process and provide a faster path to residence for highly skilled migrants. 

The key changes include:

1. New Points System: 

Applicants will need 6 points to apply for the visa. Points can be claimed from New Zealand occupational registration, qualification (Bachelor’s degree or higher), or income from your job or job offer (earning at least 1.5 times the median wage in New Zealand). Points from different skill indicators cannot be combined. Additional points can be claimed for each year of skilled work in New Zealand, up to a maximum of 3 points.

2. Skilled Job Offer Requirements: 

Applicants must have a skilled job or job offer with an accredited employer in New Zealand. The job or job offer must be at least 30 hours a week, in an ANZSCO Level 1 to 3 occupation and paid at or above the median wage, or in an ANZSCO Level 4 to 5 occupation and paid at or above 1.5 times the median wage, and on a permanent contract or fixed-term contract for at least 12 months.

3. Unchanged Requirements: 

Some requirements remain the same, including character requirements, health requirements, English language requirements, and age requirements (you must be 55 years old or under to apply).

4. Application Processing: 

There is no limit on the number of people who can get residence through the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa. Straight-forward applications will be decided within 6 to 8 weeks.

5. Interim Visa: 

If your current temporary visa expires while your application is being processed, you will be granted a Skilled Migrant Category Interim Visa, allowing you to stay in New Zealand while your visa is processed.

What are the main changes to the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa?

The primary changes include a new points system, new requirements for a skilled job or job offer, changes in the number of applications accepted, and processing times. There is also a new Skilled Migrant Category Interim Visa.

Is the new 6-point system simpler than the previous 180-point system?

The new system is less complex in terms of point calculations and seems easier to comprehend. However, it’s not as straightforward as it may appear. There are nuances you need to be aware of, such as demonstrating that your job is a “skilled job” or meeting the “skilled work experience” criteria. So, even if it appears to be simpler, it’s still important to get professional immigration advice, even when accepting a job offer if you intend to use it for future visa applications. This can help ensure that your job meets the necessary requirements.

How many points do I need to apply?

Applicants will need a minimum of 6 points to apply. These points can be claimed based on New Zealand occupational registration, qualifications (Bachelor’s degree or higher), or income from a job or job offer (earning at least 1.5 times the median wage in New Zealand). If these do not add to 6 points, up to 3 points can come from work experience.

How are points awarded for occupational registration, qualifications, and income?

Points are awarded in the following ways:

  • For occupational registration, you can claim points if your registration is on the list of eligible New Zealand occupational registrations.
  • For qualifications, points are awarded based on the highest level of qualification you have and its New Zealand Qualification Framework level (NZQF) and whether the qualification is equivalent to a specific New Zealand qualification type.
  • For income, points are awarded based on your wage. The more you earn, the more points you can claim.
Can I claim points for my work experience in New Zealand?

Yes, you can claim 1 point for each year of skilled work experience in New Zealand, up to a maximum of 3 points. There is a wage threshold depending on the ANZSCO level of the job. If claiming points for income in your current job, work experience must be at that income level as well (e.g. 1x, 2x, or 3x medium wage).

What are the requirements for the job or job offer?

You must have a skilled job or job offer with an accredited employer in New Zealand to apply. This job or job offer must be at least 30 hours a week, and be in an ANZSCO Level 1 to 3 occupation and paid at or above the median wage, or in an ANZSCO Level 4 to 5 occupation and paid at or above 1.5 times the median wage. It should be on a permanent contract or a fixed-term contract for at least 12 months.

Are there any unchanged requirements?

Yes, some of the current requirements for the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa are not changing. These include character requirements, health requirements, English language requirements, and age requirements (you must be 55 years old or under to apply).

What is the Skilled Migrant Category Interim Visa?

If you apply for the new Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa and your current temporary visa expires while your application is being processed, you will be granted a Skilled Migrant Category Interim Visa. This Interim Visa will come into effect the day after your current visa expires and be valid up to 24 months while waiting for the outcome.

How long will my resident visa application take to process?

According to INZ, straightforward applications that have all the required information will be decided within 6 to 8 weeks.

Does studying in New Zealand provide me any benefit under the new system?

Although the new 6-point system doesn’t award extra points for studying in New Zealand like the old 180-point system did, studying here can still be beneficial for a few reasons:

  1. Pursuing higher education: Higher qualifications, especially those at and beyond a bachelor’s degree, carry more weight in the new system. However, note that pursuing a PhD solely for the purpose of gaining residency may not the most efficient approach (more on this later).
  2. Aligning with the local job market: New Zealand employers often prefer candidates who have studied locally and understand the country’s unique environment. For some, studying in New Zealand might also be a chance to transition into careers with more opportunities in the country.
  3. Gaining work experience: While studying full-time, you’re usually allowed to work part-time and full-time during scheduled holidays. This can help you accumulate local work experience, which is beneficial for future job prospects.
  4. Obtaining an open work visa: One of the biggest benefits of studying in New Zealand is the Post Study Work Visa you may get afterward, which has open work conditions. This visa can make job hunting easier since many employers are hesitant to hire overseas staff due to the complexities of the visa process.
  5. No need to have your NZ qualification assessed by NZQA.
Is it worth studying a PhD for the purpose of gaining the Resident Visa?

Generally speaking, no, unless you’re aiming for an academic career. Pursuing a PhD in New Zealand can be a great choice if you’re interested in research, as you’ll pay the same fee as domestic students and receive full-time work rights. However, if your primary aim is to gain 6 points for residency, studying a PhD might not be the most efficient way because:

  • Even with a PhD, you’ll still need to find a skilled job in New Zealand, which isn’t necessarily easier for PhD holders.
  • Applying for and completing a PhD takes a significant amount of time. It can take several months to a year just to complete the application process, and at least three years to finish the degree. A master’s degree, on the other hand, typically takes 1-2 years, and you can earn the same 6 points by working in a skilled job for an additional year.
Is it important for my qualification to be relevant to my job?

Yes and no.

To claim points for a qualification, a job does not have to be relevant. For example, someone with a Masters in Sociology working as an IT technician would not have a Masters relevant to their job, but can still claim points based on their (irrelevant) Masters degree.

However, relevant qualifications can allow you to be considered ‘suitably qualified’. The IT technician could be qualified by work experience, but would need to work in that field for 3 years before they can start to be considered ‘qualified’. On the other hand, if they have a relevant Diploma in IT, this would allow them to be considered qualified for their skilled work, even though in the new system a sub-degree Diploma does not count for points.

The IT technician’s Masters would could for points, but would not make them qualified. Their IT Diploma would not count for points, but would make them qualified.

We trust that this article has provided you with a clear understanding of the updated points system for the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa. Should you require additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us, or book an appointment with our Licensed Immigration Advisers. Our team of knowledgeable immigration advisors is readily available to assist you in navigating these modifications and ensuring a hassle-free journey to New Zealand.

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