The Skilled Migrant Category is a sought-after visa program that aims to draw skilled workers to New Zealand who can utilize or transfer their skills, integrate well into society, and make a positive contribution to the country. It serves as the main route to achieving permanent residency in New Zealand.Through this category, Immigration New Zealand aims to provide local opportunities to global talents.

Securing a Skilled Migrant Residence Visa

The SMC Residence Visa is a points-based system that awards points based on age, qualifications, work experience, or a job offer in New Zealand.To qualify, you need at least 6 points and must meet health and character requirements. If you're applying through the Skilled Migrant Category, you need a job offer from an Accredited Employer, ensuring a minimum of 30 hours per week, and it should be a permanent offer or a contract lasting 12 months or more. You must also be paid at least the median wage or the market rate based on your job's skill level. To be eligible, your wage must meet specific criteria based on your skill level in the ANZSCO classification:

  • Skill levels 1, 2, or 3 require a minimum of the median wage, currently $29.66 per hour, or the market rate if higher.
  • Skill levels 4 or 5 necessitate a minimum of 1.5 times the median wage, currently $44.49 per hour.

The process for claiming points in the Skilled Migrant Category

You need at least six points to be eligible for the SMC visa. Points can be claimed according to the criteria established by Immigration New Zealand from one of the three categories below, where you can potentially earn 3 to 6 points:

  • 1. New Zealand occupational registration.
  • 2. A recognized qualification (Bachelor’s degree or higher).
  • 3. Income from your job or job offer (earning at least 1.5 times the median wage in New Zealand).

Please note that you can only earn points from one of the categories mentioned above.
You can also claim 1 point for each year of skilled work experience in New Zealand, up to 3 years. The points you claimed can be combined with the points from the above mentioned categories to get a total of 6 points.

Securing Points for Occupational Registration:

First, check if your occupation is on the list of eligible registrations. The more years of training you have, the more points you get.

  • ○ 6 points for 6 years of training.
  • ○ 5 points for 5 years of training.
  • ○ 4 points for 4 years of training.
  • ○ 3 points for 2 years of training.

Remember, these years of training aren't connected to your work experience.

Securing Points for a Recognized Qualification:

You may be able to claim points if you have level 7 Bachelor Degree or above. Suppose, your qualification is from outside New Zealand and isn't automatically recognized. In that case, you can earn points for it by getting a qualification assessment from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) or an appropriate occupational registration body.

Points are based on the level of your qualification.

  • 6 points for a Level 10 Doctoral Degree.
  • 5 points for a Level 9 Master's Degree.
  • 4 points for a Level 8 Bachelor Honors Degree or Postgraduate Diploma.
  • 3 points for a Level 8 Postgraduate Certificate & Level 7 Bachelor’s degree.

It's important to note that Non-degree level 7 qualifications don't earn you points.Also, your qualification doesn't need to be directly related to your New Zealand job.

Securing Points for Income:

Points under this category are determined by your income compared to the median wage.

  • ○ 6 points for a job paying 3 times the median wage (NZD $88.98/hour).
  • ○ 4 points for a job paying 2 times the median wage (NZD $59.32/hour).
  • ○ 3 points for a job paying 1.5 times the median wage (NZD $44.49/hour).

The requirements for securing points for skilled work experience in New Zealand

In order to qualify for the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) Resident Visa, an applicant must accumulate a total of 6 points. Apart from the points earned in the three categories mentioned (occupational registration, qualification, or income), applicants can also earn points for their New Zealand skilled work experience. By adding these points, individuals can achieve the required total of 6 points. The more points you secure in the categories mentioned, the less New Zealand experience you need to demonstrate, allowing you to expedite the residency process.

To claim points for work experience in New Zealand, it should be full-time (at least 30 hours per week) and meet specific wage criteria based on the job's ANZSCO level.

Points for New Zealand work experience can be claimed as follows:

  • ○ 3 points for 36 months in the last 60 months,
  • ○ 2 points for 24 months in the last 48 months,
  • ○ 1 point for 12 months in the last 24 months.

If you are claiming points for both income and work experience, you need to demonstrate a steady income during your work period. Likewise, if you're claiming points for both work experience and occupational registration, you have to prove that you had that registration throughout your work period.

The time it takes to process the application for a Skilled Migrant Visa varies.

Prioritized applications typically take 4-7 weeks on average, while non-prioritized ones can take 2-18 months.Priority criteria involve occupational registration and a salary double the NZ Median wage.

If your Skilled Migrant Category residence application is in progress when your temporary work visa expires, you will receive a Skilled Migrant Category Interim Visa automatically. This visa will come into effect the day after your temporary work visa expires and will remain valid until a decision is reached regarding your residency application.

Cost of application

For the year 2023, the family fees are structured as:

  • Band A (NZ): NZD $4,290
  • Band B (Pacific): NZD $4,020
  • Band C (rest of the world): NZD $4,890.

These fees are inclusive of Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Now if you land a job in New Zealand without meeting Skilled Migrant Category standards, you could still be eligible for other pathways, such as Green List Occupations or Sector Agreement pathways.