Skilled Migrant Category Interim Visa: Pitfalls and Restrictions  

By Hannah McCarthy

5 January 2024

Skilled Migrant Category Interim (SMC) Visas may be right for some, but they are not suitable for every migrant worker waiting for their SMC Resident Visa.

This interim SMC visa may be issued for up to 24 months while a migrant’s resident visa application is being considered. However, as explained in this article an SMC Interim Visa’s range of restrictions and pitfalls has drawbacks for some people.  

To be eligible for an SMC Interim Visa, a migrant: 

  • must be in New Zealand, and  
  • must hold a current temporary visa that has not yet expired, and 
  • must apply for an SMC Resident Visa under the new SR3 instructions, and 
  • has not been granted a 2021 Interim Visa, and 
  • has not applied for another temporary visa. 

An SMC Interim Visa is not assured

An SMC Interim Visa cannot be applied for, nor is an applicant guaranteed to receive one. Granted at the absolute discretion of Immigration New Zealand (INZ), there is also no right of appeal against a decision not to grant an SMC Interim Visa.  

From our experience many migrants assume that they receive an interim visa and don’t consider their options. This is where migrants can encounter complications and can get into trouble. Migrants need to be cautious if they are relying on receiving an SMC Interim Visa as it may not be granted if, the migrant: 

  • has particular alerts or warnings related to their character in INZ’s system; 
  • has an active appeal; 
  • is liable for deportation; 
  • has an open case with the Deputy Secretary of INZ or the Minister of Immigration; or 
  • holds a visa that has been granted because the Immigration and Protection Tribunal has ordered the grant of the visa under either section 210 or 216 of the Immigration Act. 

An SMC Interim Visa expiry date is outcome dependent  

If granted, an SMC Interim Visa is valid for up to 24 months and has multiple entry travel conditions. This means that, generally, migrants can travel outside New Zealand and return while holding an SMC Interim Visa. However, since an SMC Interim Visa’s expiry date depends on the outcome of an SMC application, if a migrant is outside of New Zealand when their SMC application is refused, they would have a limited time to return to New Zealand. This can create unforeseen difficulties for many migrants.  

It’s important for migrants to understand that an SMC Interim Visa will expire or be cancelled: 

  • on the date the SMC Resident Visa is granted if INZ approves the visa within 24 months; or 
  • two months after the date INZ declines the application or if the SMC application is withdrawn; or 
  • after 24 months if no decision has been made from the start date of an interim visa. 

Restrictions of an SMC Interim Visa  

A holder of an SMC Interim Visa is unable to apply for a visa of any other class or type. If an SMC Resident Visa application is declined or withdrawn, SMC Interim Visa holders will either need to leave New Zealand before their interim visa expires or risk becoming unlawful.  

Further restrictions that can create significant problems for migrants include: 

  • inability to support a partner’s or dependent child’s visa application; 
  • limited ability to change most of the conditions of an SMC Interim Visa. 

Consider your options carefully before accepting an SMC Interim Visa

We recommend that migrants carefully consider all their options before they go down the path of holding an SMC Interim Visa.  

Pitt & Moore can assist with SMC Resident Visa applications as well as advise on risks associated with an SMC Interim Visa in your circumstance. If you have any questions about the SMC Interim Visa do not hesitate to contact us on 03 548 8349.  

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.

Hannah-Jean McCarthy

Hannah-Jean McCarthy

Position: Solicitor
DDI: +64 3 9280108

Topics: All Select