The Ultimate Guide to New Zealand’s Skilled Migrant Category (SMC)
- By Vineet Bhardwaj
- Immigration, Immigration Changes, Immigration New Zealand, New Zealand, Resident visa
- 0 comments
- Immigration New Zealand Answers Your Questions Regarding the New Skilled Migrant Category 6-Point System
Welcome to a comprehensive list of Questions and Answers on New Zealand’s Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) policy. Recently, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has graciously provided answers to a multitude of questions related to the new SMC policy. This invaluable information comes straight from the source, INZ itself, ensuring that you receive the most accurate and up-to-date insights.
If you’re an applicant navigating the complexities of skilled migration to New Zealand, you’ll find this blog post particularly enlightening. We aim to address all your doubts and inquiries regarding the SMC policy, straight from the horse’s mouth – INZ. So, let’s delve into this comprehensive resource and uncover the intricacies of the new SMC policy together.
Qs & As
What visa do I need to be on to accrue “skilled work” points?
You can engage in skilled work on any visa that permits full-time employment, including an Accredited Employer Work Visa, Specific Purpose Visa, Critical Purpose Visitor Visa, Post Study Work Visa, or Working Holiday Visa.
Do I need to work for an accredited employer to be eligible?
To be approved a residence visa under the new Skilled Migrant Category your current skilled job or job offer must be for an accredited employer.
Skilled Work Experience you complete in New Zealand does not necessarily have to be with an accredited employer, or while on an Accredited Employer Work Visa.
How will the new Expression of Interest (EOI) process work?
The new expression of interest (EOI) for the SMC will be one step in the main application form and an automated process for applicants. Applicants will answer a series of eligibility questions to make sure that they are eligible to apply for the SMC (which will prevent them from paying the SMC application fee unnecessarily). This will be an automated check, and there will be no separate fee for this step.
Eligible applicants who confirm they meet the base eligibility requirements of the SMC will then receive an automated invitation to apply (ITA), allowing them to immediately move on and complete the full SMC application and pay the associated application fee.
Can overseas qualifications be assessed by NZQA and points claimed?
If you possess a qualification from outside New Zealand, it may require assessment by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). We will be updating our list of overseas qualifications that don’t need to be assessed by NZQA. The List of Qualifications Exempt from Assessment (LQEA) is a list which sets out the comparable New Zealand Qualifications and Credentials Framework (NZQCF) level for specified overseas qualifications, allowing immigration applicants with a qualification on the list to bypass the International Qualification Assessment (IQA) requirement. The updated list will be available from early October 2023, with subsequent updates made from there. Work on the first edition will be focused on qualifications from the most common user countries.
Does someone who can claim 6 points by having a PhD still need a skilled job or job offer in NZ?
All applicants will need to have a skilled job or job offer in New Zealand, and most applicants will be required to spend time working in New Zealand before becoming eligible for residence.
Can points be claimed for overseas work experience?
Overseas work experience was not included as a key skill proxy as verifying this is time-consuming and complex. Overseas work experience can be recognized indirectly where a professional body has assessed it as part of an occupational registration.
Have adjustments been made to accommodate the trades following consultation?
Following consultation on the original Skilled Migrant Category proposals, the training requirements for inclusion under the registration skill proxy were reduced from three years to two years for some schemes, which will allow a larger pool of tradespeople to qualify for residence. Reducing the training threshold for occupational registration means that people who gain registration in occupations such as Line Mechanics, Drainlayers, External Plasterers, and Cable Jointers will now have a pathway to residence through the Skilled Migrant Category. The full list is available in the SMC amendment circular published on the INZ website.
In order to claim skilled work experience in NZ, does the AEWV holder have to meet the median wage threshold each time it increases over the period claimed?
Applicants don’t need continuous pay rises in line with the threshold increase but must show evidence of meeting it at the beginning of their skilled work experience period and at the time of application.
The new immigration instructions contain information about when skilled work experience starts and stops being counted, at SR3.35.1.
What is a ‘straightforward application’?
Straightforward applications are expected to be decided within six to eight weeks. These are applications containing all the required information with no third-party checks or follow-up required.
With the introduction of the interim visa for new SMC applicants, will there be a process the visa holders can go through to potentially amend the conditions?
Further analysis is underway around whether and how SMC interim visa holders can apply for a variation of conditions. More information on this will be released at a future date.
Can periods of full-time skilled work experience on a student visa (student holidays for example) be counted towards the overall NZ skilled work experience required under the new SMC?
Yes, it can count as long as the person has the authority to undertake full-time employment (and is meeting all the other requirements at SR3.35).
When (i.e., date of EOI, ITA, or application) does an applicant have to meet each of the various criteria as per SR3.10? Specifically:
a. The income thresholds for skilled employment that were the basis for them being invited to apply?
b. The skilled employment requirements?
c. What date does the applicant have to qualify for 6 points?
SR3.10(c) – the income thresholds in effect in instructions on the date the person is invited to apply can be used to meet any income threshold requirements (skilled employment, points, skilled work experience).
NOTE: income thresholds in effect in instructions at the time the application is submitted can also be used if they are more favourable (e.g. if there was a decrease in the median wage between ITA and app submission).
SR3.10(b) – For skilled employment and points, the applicant must meet the requirements from the time of the EOI submission, throughout the ITA and the application assessment period – until a decision is made.
Is there a suitably qualified requirement for skilled work experience in New Zealand?
There is no suitably qualified requirement for skilled work experience in New Zealand. People need to be working in a genuine, full-time role while meeting the relevant income threshold and any other requirements at SR3.35 for the duration of their skilled work experience.
However, an immigration officer may undertake a suitably qualified assessment for skilled employment, if they deem it necessary.
For roles that are on the Green List as well, why would someone apply for the new SMC instead?
People in occupations which are on the Green List may also be eligible for SMC. In this case, applicants can choose which pathway they wish to apply for. This will depend on their personal circumstances (for example, qualifications and previous time spent in skilled employment in New Zealand).
If ANZSCO codes are selected by employers at the AEWV job check stage and the wrong ANZSCO code is accidentally selected by the employer, will the employee be locked into this ANZSCO code at the residence stage?
While a person should enter the ANZSCO occupation/code which best matches their employment in the SMC online form, an assessment of whether the person meets the skilled work experience requirements is not locked into the ANZSCO code selected by the employer and can be based on evidence provided at the residence stage. A person would also be given an opportunity to comment on any potentially prejudicial information on their resident visa application before a decision is taken.
Under the new SMC will there be any requirement to work in that role once the applicant obtains residency?
No. Under the new criteria, there will be no such requirements on an SMC resident visa. This is to simplify the overall policy and because risks in this space can be managed adequately through the assessment of the visa application. There is also no relevance test between qualification or occupational registration and skilled experience / job offer, in recognition that people who meet the SMC skill threshold are more likely to be able to transfer skills between a range of occupations.
Will the Appendix 14 exemptions to the median wage threshold still be allowed under the new SMC visa category?
No, appendix 14 doesn’t apply to the new SMC.
Can points for skilled work experience in NZ be claimed regardless of whether that work is relevant to the applicant’s current employment or offer of employment?
Skilled work experience in New Zealand does not necessarily have to be relevant to the applicant’s current employment or offer of employment.
If someone claims income at 1.5 times the median wage and then needs three years work experience at 1.5 times median wage, and the median wage at the time the work experience started was $27.76 (so they need $41.64 per hour) if they remained on that wage for the full three years, can they count that work experience even if the median wage has increased but their pay has not?
Yes, they can count this work experience and they can remain on the same wage for the three years if they remain in the same employment, however when they apply for residence they will need to meet the current (or current at the time they were invited to apply) 1.5 times median wage to qualify for points for income, not the 1.5 times median wage that was in force at the start of their work experience.
If they change employment at any point during these three years, for the work experience to continue being counted they will need to be paid at least the equivalent of 1.5 times the current median wage from the point in time that they start their new job.
Can I be self-employed and accrue skilled work experience points?
Applicants need to be in permanent employment, employment for a fixed term of at least 12 months, or employment on a contract for services (while meeting the requirements for a contract for services at SR3.20(c)) – as set out in their employment agreement.
NOTE: People on a contract for services are technically self-employed, which is acceptable, but they have to be engaged by another party to perform the service i.e., they can’t be self-employed in the sense that they own a business and are just employing themselves or working for the business.
Is there anything to prevent an employer from raising the wages of a worker to meet the 1.5x median wage and then reducing wages after residency has been approved?
No. Under the new criteria, there will be no such requirements on an SMC resident visa. Risks can be managed adequately through the assessment of the visa application.
What will the visa fee be for the new SMC, Green List and Sector Agreements?
The fee for the new SMC applications will remain the same. For Green List and Sector Agreements, the fee will be the same as the SMC.
Can you save EOI entries on the online form for submission at a later time?
Yes, the EOI and application form can both be saved as a draft.
On a new SMC interim, can people travel out of NZ and come back multiple times or just once? What will the visa conditions be?
Yes, people can travel out of NZ and come back multiple times. The visa will have multiple entry travel conditions.
Why can a level 7 graduate diploma not be claimed points for if a bachelor’s degree is needed to obtain one and therefore it is not a low-level qualification?
A level 7 graduate diploma is only one year of full-time study. Although it is an equivalent level of study to a bachelor’s degree, given the shorter duration graduates do not have the same level/depth of study as someone with an Honors degree / postgraduate diploma. In most cases, a bachelor’s degree is required to gain entry to a graduate diploma program, however, in some circumstances, providers may accept equivalent practical, professional, or educational experience. Those with a graduate diploma who have previously completed a bachelor’s degree will still be eligible for the 3 points for a bachelor’s degree.
Only recognizing degree-level qualifications and higher is consistent with targeting people with at least six years of formal training and skilled experience, with only three years of that able to be made up of skilled work experience in New Zealand.
For the new SMC, where SR3.20.b.iii says the employment or offer of employment must be permanent or for a fixed term of at least 12 months, does this mean there need to be at least 12 months fixed term left from the time of application or the time of decision?
No, there does not need to be at least 12 months fixed term left from the time of application or the time of decision. At the time of application and/or the time of decision, there just needs to be a fixed term for at least 12 months in total as specified in the employment agreement, even if there is less than 12 months left to go at the time of application or decision. However, we are currently looking at the alignment of this requirement with the fixed-term employment requirements of other skilled residence categories.
- For example, if an applicant has a 12-month fix-term employment contract now and by the time the application opens they only have 9 months left, would they still be eligible to apply?
Yes (as long as they meet all the other requirements), because at the time of application, they have a fixed term for at least 12 months in total as specified in the employment agreement.
Source: Immigration New Zealand
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