With changes galore, INZ looks for skilled migrants

Arunima Dhingra 

Immigration has been at the forefront of government policy development and change over the past few months.

Being an election year, it is perhaps one of the most divisive and controversial campaign issues for all political parties.

The government has announced major changes to immigration policy within the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) for Residence and the Essential Skills Work Visa Category. These changes came into effect on August 28, 2017.

As a Licensed Immigration Advisor, it is my duty to provide people with a breakdown of the changes and explain how they may affect them.

Policy Overview

Here is an overview of what has changed.

SMC has undergone a complete overhaul, resulting in a new points calculator. Here is a brief breakdown:

Introduced two remuneration thresholds in order to be eligible for Residence under the SMC Category

Salary at or above $23.49 per hour, equating to $48,859 per year for jobs at ANZSCO skill levels 1, 2 and 3

Salary at or above $35.24 per hour, equating to $73,299 per year for job at any ANZSCO level or no ANZSCO match

Bonus 20 points for high salary at or above $46.98 per hour, equating to $97,718 per year.

More points available for skilled work experience only

Bonus 10 points for skilled work experience of 12 months or more in New Zealand.

Points for recognised level 9 or 10 post-graduate qualifications (Master’s degrees, Doctorate) increased to 70 points.

30 Points now for people aged 20 – 39 years.

Points for partners’ qualifications is only awarded if the qualification is recognised level 7 or higher.

Points Removed

Points no longer available for: employment, work experience and qualifications in identified future growth areas; qualifications in areas of absolute skills shortage and for close family in New Zealand.

Essential Skills Category

Essential Skills work visa category has also undergone significant changes and below is the brief overview:

Introduction of remuneration bands to help assess the skill level of employment offered to Essential Skills visa applicants


RemunerationANZSCO 1-3ANZSCO 4-5
$35.24+ per hourHighHigh
$19.97 – $35.24 per hourMid Low
Less than $19.97 per hourLowLow


The skill band determines the maximum visa length and whether your partner or dependent children will be able to apply for visas on the basis of their relationship


Skill bandMaximum visa lengthMaximum number of visasEligible to support partner/child visa
Higher-skilled5 yearsUnlimitedYes
Mid-skilled3 yearsUnlimitedYes
Lower-skilled1 yearUp to 3 yearsNo

Note: After three years, lower-skilled workers will need to spend 12 consecutive months outside New Zealand before they can be granted a further Essential Skills visa to undertake lower-skilled work.

Partners and children of Essential Skills workers in lower-skilled employment can stay in New Zealand for existing visa holders if they already hold a visa based on their relationship.

Essential Skills visa holders who are undertaking lower-skilled work and previously held a student visa can support visas for their partner or dependent children if (a) they held a student visa which allowed them to support a partner for a work visa or a dependent child for a student visa (b) they held a post-study work visa based on that student visa, and (c) they supported their partner or dependent child for a visa based on their relationship while holding a post-study work visa.

These are major changes that will most definitely have flow-on effects across multiple industries especially farming, retail, hospitality and healthcare. However, for any change to take place, there will always be a rough transition period.

Attracting high skills

The government’s goal seems to be clear – attract migrant workers with high levels of skill and experience, who may not necessarily have a formal qualification but have much more work and life experience, and therefore earn higher salaries and bring in migrants to fill important skill shortages.

However, though the intention may be positive, and may in fact change the face of immigration in New Zealand in a positive way in the next five years, the way in which these changes were brought in was problematic to say the least.

My hope is that the to-be government is willing to patch up the gaps in these changes as they come to light, to ensure that our country continues to be seen as a desirable migrant destination.

Justified shift

I believe this is a justified shift but whether it will have the desired impact or effect, and whether it will in fact meet all its intended objectives, is something that only time will tell.

Arunima Dhingra is Director and a Fully Licensed Immigration Advisor at Aims Global Education and Immigration Services. She won two Awards at the Annual New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment (NZAMI) Annual Awards last fortnight as reported under Educationlink in this issue. Aims Global Education and Immigration Services is the joint sponsor with ‘The Fund Master,’ of the ‘Best Accountant of the Year’ Category of the Tenth Annual Indian Newslink Indian Business Awards.

Sharing is caring!

Related posts

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: