By Heather Collins
21 June 2023
Today the government announced major changes to the Skilled Migrant Category, confirming a new 6-point system commencing in October this year. In addition the Highly Paid Resident Visa will be removed and an extension to the Accredited Employer Work Visa will be implemented.
*** Shortly after publication of this article INZ released Immigration Instructions containing further details regarding these changes. Pitt & Moore will be providing further commentary on this topic shortly. ***
From 9 October 2023 the current SMC points system will be replaced with a simplified system focused on occupational registration, recognised qualifications or income. The aim is to provide highly skilled people with a faster route to residence and clarify the route for migrant workers and their families in New Zealand. The new points system is intended to complement the Green List which has a more restricted route to residence based on specific occupations which are in high demand. However it also appears that some migrants currently eligible under the current SMC scheme may be excluded under the new points system.
It is unclear from the announcement whether the proposal is being implemented unchanged, and we will need to wait for further details to emerge. However based on the information provided today the original key concept of the 6 point structure is going ahead.
The takeaways from today’s announcement are:
As we noted at the time of the proposal, the new points system is likely to exclude some people from residence who are currently eligible. Those in occupations where much of the training is “on the job”, and where there isn’t registration, are likely to have difficulties gaining 6 points.
The government envisions that processing of SMC Resident Applications will be quicker, with a turnaround time of 6 – 8 weeks. This is a welcome relief given previous delays in processing SMC Residence Visa Applications. However it is currently unclear how the process will be streamlined.
If an applicant applies for a new SMC Resident Visa and their current temporary visa expires while their SMC Resident application is still being processed, they we be granted a Skilled Migrant Category Interim Visa. The SMC Interim Visa will expire at the earliest of the following times:
There are significant drawbacks to being on an interim visa and therefore immigration advice is highly recommended before the applicant’s temporary visa expires.
Notably absent from the beehive announcement was INZ’s confirmation today that the Highly Paid Residence Visa which was set to come into force on 29 September 2023 will no longer go ahead. Instead applicants are encouraged to apply for SMC Residence on the basis that they can claim points for their income.
Following feedback from businesses the government has also announced that from November 2023 there will be an extension to the maximum duration of an Accredited Employer Work Visa from three years to five years. The purpose of this change is to align with the introduction of a five year maximum continuous stay for AEWV holders who do not have a pathway to residence.
We will need to wait for further details to be released to find out whether the new 5 year limit will apply to migrants who are already in New Zealand on their Accredited Employer Work Visa.
Based on the information released today it appears that significant changes to the SMC category may exclude some applicants from residence, and there are still many unknowns while we await the release of the new Immigration Instructions .
For those who intend to submit a SMC residence application under the new scheme we suggest that this is a space to watch closely as more details are released. We also recommend that tailored legal advice is sought prior to submitting an SMC application to ensure it has the best chance of success.
Pitt and Moore Lawyers offer an initial free 15 minute consultation for immigration matters. Contact us today to discuss your pathway to residence.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended as legal advice. It is important that you seek legal advice that is specific to your circumstances.