The Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa – It’s a points game and the rules are changing

By Heather Collins

2 May 2023

After being suspended since 2020, many work visa holders were relieved to see the Skilled Migrant Category for Residence (“SMC”) reopen on 11 November 2022, with INZ selecting all Expressions of Interest having 160 or more points.  The following day the points threshold increased to its current threshold of 180 points. 

Despite the increased points now required,  SMC is unlikely to remain in its current state for long.  On 18 November 2022 MBIE’s consultation process on proposed changes to the SMC concluded, and the government is expected to consider feedback and make further announcements shortly.

The proposed 6 point system

If the proposal comes into effect the new points system will be focussed on granting residence to applicants who can meet New Zealand’s long-term or medium-term skill needs where the shortages are difficult to fill by training New Zealanders, or require a lot of time or training to be up to the requisite level.

Applicants will need to have a job offer and 6 points  which would be made up in the following way:

  • 3 to 6 points will be based on their New Zealand professional registration or  qualifications or  income;
  • 1 point (up to a maximum of 3 points) for each year working in New Zealand in a skilled job being paid at least the median wage

Under the proposed points system there will be direct to residence pathways for the highest skilled people in each category, such as those who have professional registration requiring at least 6 years of training or work experience, or people who hold a doctorate, or people earning at least 3 times the medium wage.

Will bonus points remain?

Under the proposal bonus points for factors which don’t relate to skill level will be removed,  such as bonus points for: 

  • location of the job or job offer,
  • study; and
  • matters which relate to the applicant’s partner.  

Will migrant workers in particular occupations be excluded under a 6 point system?

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.

Following on from the consultation process MBIE is providing advice to the government regarding critical roles which won’t be able to meet the proposed points. However MBIE have also  indicated that it is the green list which will be used to make occupation-based exceptions,  so that SMC is left as a straightforward, simple system.

A review of the green list is occurring in July 2023, which will be roughly the same time as the new SMC points system (which may alter as a result of the consultation) is aimed to be introduced.  

What will the wage thresholds be?

Under the proposal the wage threshold will stay the same as under the current system which means:

  • occupations which are ANZSCO level 1-3 require the median wage or higher ; and
  • occupations which are ANZSCO level 4-5 will require at least 1.5 the median wage.

What will happen to the SMC Job Search Visa?

Under the proposal applicants will need a job or job offer, and the Job Search Visa will be removed.

What will be the Application Process under the proposed new scheme?

MBIE are proposing to remove the Expression of Interest step so that applicants  can apply for Residence right away.

Under the proposal there won’t be a cap on how many eligible applicants can be granted residence.  However MBIE  have indicated that adjustments may be made if the approvals are higher or lower than expected,  or the skills are not aligned with New Zealand’s long-term needs.

The window of opportunity is closing

If the proposed changes go ahead as suggested, some people will be excluded from Skilled Migrant Category Residence. 

For this reason, those who currently meet 180 or more points should be submitting an Expression of Interest as soon as possible to ensure that they don’t miss out. In addition, those who have an  Expression of Interest in the pool which is due to expire should consider submitting a new Expression of Interest.

Get professional advice

Expert advice prior to submitting an Expression of Interest can help to ensure that the points claimed can be substantiated at the Resident Visa Application stage.  It’s important that time isn’t lost with an unsuccessful application when the clock is ticking on the current SMC points system.

Talk to us

For many migrants this may be their only chance to get across the ‘residence’ line. If you’d like more information on this topic talk to Heather Collins, Associate, Pitt & Moore.

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.

Heather Collins

Position: Associate
DDI: +64 3 545 6702

Topics: All Select