For some wealthy applicants who possess funds they are willing to invest in New Zealand, $3 million NZD (for the Investor 2 category) or at least $10 million NZD (for the Investor 1 category) the migrant investor categories present an option for obtaining Residence in New Zealand. However this is not the case for many people!

For some applicants who have a partner who is a New Zealand Citizen or Resident, applying for Residence under the partnership category where the couple have been living together in a genuine and stable relationship for at least 12 months is also a way to gain Residence.

However the main option by which most people gain Residence in New Zealand, is the Skilled Migrant category. Under the Skilled Migrant category the “principal” (main) applicant is awarded points depending on a range of factors, including age, work experience and qualifications. The number of points required for an application under the Skilled Migrant category to be successful is currently 160.

Getting to 160 points

It is important to understand that, due to the way the points system is structured and points allocations are weighted, in order to achieve 160 points, most people require current skilled employment or offer of skilled employment in New Zealand – what I refer to below simply as “skilled employment”. A job is worth 50 points. So a point combination which often arises is the following;

Age 20-3930
Qualification – Bachelor degree50
Skilled employment50
Current or offer of skilled employment outside Auckland30

Without the 50 points for skilled employment, it is quite difficult to achieve the 160 points requirement. One possibility is as follows.

Age 20-3930
Qualification – Masters or PhD degree70
Skilled work experience – 10 years50
Partner qualification – Bachelor degree10

 Or, consider the following.

Age 20-3930
Qualification – Masters or PhD degree70
Skilled work experience – 10 years50
Bonus points for work experience in an area of long term skill shortage – 2 – 5 years (for example occupations in IT, a range of types of professional Engineers).10

Achieving 160 points without skilled employment requires a higher Level qualification such as a Masters degree or PhD, a number of years of skilled work experience (work experience gained after the qualification was awarded), or possibly work experience in an area of long term skill shortage. This is quite difficult for an applicant to achieve – they need to have a lot going for them in order to qualify.

Changes to point structure make points for skilled employment more important

The 160 points threshold was introduced in October 2016 and the allocation of points for various factors was changed in August 2017. See for example an earlier blog discussing the changes, here.

Prior to October 2016, it was possible to secure Residence either with 100 points including 50 points for skilled employment or 140 points without skilled employment.

Prior to October 2016, if an applicant scored at least 140 points without skilled employment, they would be interviewed by Immigration New Zealand to assess if they had the ability to successfully settle in New Zealand and if so, Residence would be granted.

The increase to a 160 point requirement has set the bar much higher for applicants to get Residence.

Scoring at least 160 points without skilled employment now results in the grant of a 9 month job search Work Visa (if the principal applicant is in New Zealand) or a 12 month job search Work Visa (if the principal applicant is outside New Zealand).

To be granted Residence, a principal applicant must secure an offer of skilled employment during the Job Search Work Visa period. Scoring at least 160 points without points for skilled employment only gets you a Job Search Work Visa and not Residence. This is contrasted to the older rules, where it was possible to get Residence following an interview with INZ.

Holding skilled employment is therefore now essential at some point in the Residence application process, even if it is preceded by the grant of a Job Search Work Visa.

The need for a Work Visa

An applicant for Residence who applies with points for skilled employment is also going to require a Work Visa. This is because the current processing time for a Skilled Migrant Residence application is up to 15 months.

The long processing time makes it important that an applicant hold a Work Visa to work in their skilled employment for a period of time while the Residence application is being processed. An employer is not going to wait for 15 months for an applicant to be able to start work with them.

There is an advantage in securing Job Search Work Visa, because many New Zealand employers are only willing to offer employment to applicants who already have a Work Visa. Job Search visas are available for people who have completed a NZ qualification, and they allow people to work for any employer, in any job.

Convincing a New Zealand employer to employ someone who does not already have a Work Visa can be done, but the type of Work Visa the applicant applies for is usually an Essential Skills Work Visa which requires the employer to demonstrate there are no New Zealand citizens or residents that can fill the role. Having a Job Search Work Visa instead can make the process of securing skilled employment much easier.

Other considerations

Other requirements that need to be met for the grant of Residence under the Skilled Migrant category include;

  • Meeting a minimum standard of English, which can include an IELTS test score of 6.5 which is no more than two years old at the time the Residence application is lodged;
  • Being of an acceptable standard of health;
  • Being of good character;
  • The skilled employment, where the occupation is ANZSCO skill Level 1, 2 or 3, pays at least $25.00 per hour. Skill Level 4 or 5 occupations are acceptable if they pay more than $37.50 per hour.

It is also relevant to bear in mind that qualifications sometimes need to be assessed by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), if they are not on the list of qualification automatically recognised as equal to a NZ qualification.

Therefore, before commencing any Skilled Migrant Residence application process, where a qualification is not automatically recognised, applying for the qualification to be assessed is an important first step. The International Qualifications Assessment (IQA), takes around 1 month to be completed and usually costs NZD$445. Information about the IQA can be found here  .   

Some occupations also require NZ occupational registration. If that is the case, you cannot claim points for skilled employment in that job unless you first get registered. Occupations which require registration include Electrician, Electrical Engineer, Pharmacist and Teacher, and the full list can be found here.

The preparation and filing of a Skilled Migrant application requires a high degree of planning, to avoid any potential pitfalls. Contact us here at Laurent Law if you need help with a Skilled Migrant application.