Changes to the Skilled Migrant Category – what do they mean?


The government has announced that the Skilled Migrant Category will change. The following outlines what these changes might mean for you or your employees.

When will the changes happen?

28 August 2017

What is the main change?

There will be minimum salary/wage requirements for anyone relying on a job to get residence.

What is the current situation?

At the moment, an employee can claim points towards residence, if he or she has a “skilled” job.

A “skilled” job is one that substantially matches with an official description (called an ANZSCO description) that is included in a list of “skilled” jobs published by Immigration New Zealand.

The employee must prove his or her job matches with one of the descriptions included in the “skilled” list and that he or she is earning the market rate for that job.

An employee needs 160 points to get residence.  A skilled job counts for at least 50 of those points.  Therefore, most applicants need to have a “skilled” job to get residence.

How will the requirements change on 14 August?

After 14 August, an employee earning less than $73,299 will still need to show that his or her job substantially matches with a description for a job included in the “skilled list”.  However, he or she must also show that he or she is earning more than $48,859 per annum. 

This means that applicants earning less than $48,859 per annum are unlikely to get residence, even if the job is very skilled.  For example, chefs, restaurant managers, retail managers and people working in manufacturing often earn less than this.

Conversely, an employee earning at least $73,299 per annum will not need to show that his or her job substantially matches with one that is included on the skilled list.  The salary/wage alone will be enough to claim points for skilled employment.

Are there any other changes?

Yes.  The new policy has not yet been published, but the other, positive changes will include:

  • Bonus points for a job earning more than $97,718 per annum.

  • Additional points will be available for work experience.

  • There will be additional points for having a Master or Doctorate level qualification.

  • The number of points awarded to applicants aged between 30 and 39 will increase 

The less positive changes are:

  • Applicants will not be able to claim points for a partner’s qualification unless the qualification is at least the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree.

  • Additional points will not be awarded for qualifications relevant to a job on the Long Term Skill Shortage List.

  • Additional points will not be awarded for employment, work experience or qualifications in one of the identified future growth areas, such as information and communications technology.

  • Additional points will not be awarded for having a New Zealand resident parent, sibling or child.

What do the changes mean, overall?

It will be a lot more difficult for people who are doing skilled work, but in lower paid industries, to qualify for residence.  The hospitality, manufacturing and IT industries may be affected.

However, it may be a lot easier for applicants who are paid well, but whose jobs do not nicely match with a “skilled” job description to qualify for residence.  For example, people working in construction management jobs may be able to more readily qualify for residence.

What to do next?

If you or one of your employees is intending to apply for residence, we recommend obtaining professional advice.  It may be important to submit an application before the changes come into effect.  Our team would be happy to help.

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Copyright © Cavell Leitch. All rights reserved. Redistribution is only permitted with express written permission. For enquiries please contact us. This article by its nature cannot be comprehensive and cannot be relied on by clients as advice. It is provided to assist clients to identify legal issues on which they should seek legal advice. Please consult the professional staff of Cavell Leitch for advice specific to your situation.