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The New Zealand Government is putting into place changes that affect the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visas.

From the 9th of October 2023, there will be a change in rules for applications for Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visas. The new rules are designed to support economic growth in New Zealand, as well as provide more certainty to those wishing to immigrate to New Zealand, and employers who sponsor migrant visas.

The changes to the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa process include:

  • an updated points system

  • skilled job or job offer requirements

  • the number of applications accepted, the time it takes to process these applications, and 

  • a new visa – the Skilled Migrant Category Interim Visa

In this article, we will cover the previous system, what these new changes are, and what they mean for skilled workers looking to migrate to New Zealand.

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Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa: An overview

The Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa is for skilled workers who will contribute to New Zealand’s economic growth. This visa allows recipients, their spouses, and their children under the age of 24 to live, work, and study in New Zealand indefinitely. Application costs around NZD $4,880.

In order to apply:

  • You must be able to prove your identity

  • You must be of good character

  • You must be in good health

  • You must be able to speak English

    • An IELTS General Training or Academic overall band score of 6.5 or more will be accepted as evidence of English proficiency

  • You must be 55 years of age or under

  • Your partner and children 16 or over must be able to, or willing to learn to speak English 

    • An IELTS General Training or Academic overall band score of 5.0 or more will be accepted as evidence of English proficiency

    • If they cannot prove English proficiency, you will have to pay New Zealand Immigration for English language classes before they will grant you a visa

New Zealand’s points system for immigration

Changes to the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa

The points system

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On top of the requirements listed above, applications are assessed on a points-based system. 

In the past, you’d be awarded points for different things, like:

  • where in New Zealand you’ll be working,

  • whether or not you’re already employed in New Zealand

  • whether or not you work in an industry with a skills shortage

  • if you have a recognised educational qualification, 

  • the level of your qualification (eg. Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate)

In order for your Expression of Interest (EOI) for this visa to be accepted, you used to need 180 points. 

Now, the points system has been simplified. From October 9th 2023, instead of 180 points, you need just 6 points. You can claim 3 to 6 points across one of these three categories:

1. Your New Zealand occupational registration

  • You’ll need to be registered with an eligible New Zealand occupational registration

  • 3 points for registrations requiring a minimum of 2 years of training

  • 4 points for registrations requiring a minimum of 4 years of training

  • 5 points for registrations requiring a minimum of 5 years of training

  • 6 points for registrations requiring a minimum of 6 years of training

  • For a full list of eligible occupational registrations, as well as how many points you can claim once registered, visit the New Zealand Immigration website.

2. Your qualification

  • You can claim points for the highest tertiary qualification you have, depending on its New Zealand Qualification Framework level.

  • 3 points for a level 7 Bachelor’s degree, or a level 8 Postgraduate Certificate

  • 4 points for a level 8 Bachelor’s degree, or Postgraduate Diploma

  • 5 points for a level 9 Master’s degree, 

  • 6 points for a level 10 Doctoral degree

3. Income from a New Zealand job or job offer 

  • 3 points if you earn or will earn 1.5 times the New Zealand median wage ($44.49 NZD an hour)

  • 4 points if you earn or will earn 2 times the New Zealand median wage ($59.32 NZD an hour)

  • 6 points if you earn or will earn 3 times the New Zealand median wage ($88.98 NZD an hour)

You can also claim an additional 1 point for every year of skilled work you have already completed in New Zealand, up to a maximum of 3 points, so long as:

Points for skilled work can be combined with points gained from one out of the three skill categories.

The skilled job or job offer requirements

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In addition to having the required amount of points, you have to have a job with or job offer from an accredited employer. This job or job offer must be for skilled work.

To be considered skilled work, a job must be:

The number of applications accepted, and processing time

There is now no limit to the number of applications that can be accepted for residency through this visa. If you meet the above requirements, and your visa application is accepted, you will be able to gain residency in New Zealand. 

If your application is straightforward, New Zealand Immigration aims to process your application within 6 to 8 weeks.

The Skilled Migrant Category Interim Visa

If you’re in New Zealand on a temporary visa, and it expires during the application process for the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa, you will be granted a Skilled Migrant Category Interim Visa. 

This visa will let you continue to live and work in New Zealand, as well as travel in and out of New Zealand, while your Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa is being processed.

If there were conditions on your previous temporary visa, these conditions will transfer to your Skilled Migrant Category Interim Visa. This visa will stay in place:

  • for 24 months, OR

  • until your residence visa is approved, OR

  • for 2 months after your residence visa has been declined or withdrawn, whichever comes soonest.

5 tips to ace IELTS for your New Zealand visa

IELTS for Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa

The principal applicant, their partner, and dependent children aged 16 and over must all speak and understand English. There are some exceptions, but most of the time Immigration New Zealand asks you to show this in your application with English language test results, for example, an IELTS test.

For a New Zealand residence visa, the primary applicant needs an IELTS overall score of 6.5 or more. Partners and dependent children need an overall score of 5.0 or more. IELTS has lots of free preparation materials available to help you achieve your required score.

If you need test results for your application they must be 2 years old or less at the time you apply.

How to prepare for IELTS: Top 10 study strategies

Preparing for IELTS

Taking the IELTS is an important step in your migration journey and it’s important to be prepared. When you take the IELTS, you will be scored on four key English comprehension skills:

Your band score for each of these skills will be used to calculate your overall IELTS score.

What IELTS score do I need to achieve?

The minimum IELTS score you need to achieve will depend on the visa, university or job you are applying for, as they may each have different eligibility requirements. 

As a guide, the minimum overall IELTS score you need for most Australian Universities and permanent migration visas is 6.0.

What study materials are available for IELTS test-takers?

When you take the IELTS, you are not alone. There are many study resources available to help test-takers prepare for the big day. 

IELTS Prepare is home to a wide range of free and premium study materials such as:

IELTS Prepare also offers test-takers the opportunity to filter study resources by skill, cost, format and many other options. This allows you to personalise your results and make sure you are focusing on the skills you want to practise the most.

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Immigration and the law

Legislation about immigration changes frequently. It’s important to check the New Zealand Immigration website for changes that may apply to you. You may want to consider getting support from a lawyer or migration agent.

About this Article

Published on July 14, 2023

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