Skilled Migrant Resident Visa

Last week the Minister of Immigration announced major changes to the Skilled Migrant Resident visa. The government feels that the current policy around resident visas does not attract right kind of people; highly educated and highly skilled. There have been no major changes to the points system in about 20 years so you may argue that a change was due.

However, 2017 is an election year so the timing of the announcement is not surprising. The news has been overflowing with messages about record numbers of net migration. New Zealanders complain about lack of available housing, soaring house prices and jobs taken by immigrants. The economy is doing well and migrants contribute to this significantly is often overlooked.

Changes always affect a group of people badly. In this case, that is no different. It will become more difficult or impossible for some people to move to New Zealand long term. On the other hand, other people are not affected at all. Basically, the new changes will affect people with low-income jobs the most. A skilled job offer from a New Zealand employer is almost always necessary due to the high points threshold of 160.

Announced changes to SMC

The announced changes per 14 August 2017 include:

3 income thresholds – job offers need a minimum annual salary of $48.859. Job offers with an income above $73,299 are always seen as skilled. You can claim bonus points for a salary at or above $97,718. Salary thresholds are updated annually.

Points increase – More points for skilled work experience in occupations of skills level 1, 2 and 3. As well as, more points for qualifications comparable to level 9 and 10, and applicants aged 30-39.

Points eliminated –  All bonus points related to Identified Future Growth areas will disappear. Points for close family also will go too. As well as points for qualifications in areas of absolute skills shortage.

More details about the new points scale is available around June 2017.

Work visa

A quick heads up on work visas. Immigration will introduce changes to Essential Skills work visa rules to align them with the Skilled Migrant Category.

The proposed changes are currently under consultation but are due to come into effect in August 2017 as well. They also include income thresholds similar to SMC. In addition, a work visa for low-skilled (skill level 4 and 5) occupations for a maximum of three years with a stand down period, is proposed too. A stand down period means that you have to wait a while before you may apply for a new work visa. You might have to leave the country in this period.

Partners and dependent children of work visa holders with a low-income (under $48.859) job are affected too. Partners can only join if they apply for a work visa based on a job offer themselves and dependent children will pay international tuition fees.

Please note that the above changes are just proposals at the moment.

What now

You still have few months until August. An Expression of Interest selected from the pool before 14 August means that a  Skilled Migrant Resident Visa application is assessed under the old rules too. Of course, you do need to meet all requirements. Chefs and Trades people are two examples of occupations that are affected under the new rules. They have the required skill level but rarely meet the income requirements.

If you have no job in New Zealand yet, you need to ask yourself what your ultimate goal is. Do you want to work and live here permanently or do you want to work here just for a few years. If your end goal is residency, make sure you have an occupation where the salary levels are high enough to meet the appropriate threshold.

People with occupations that require Bachelor Degree level shouldn’t be too worried. Most still should be able to get a work visa and progress to a Skilled Migrant Resident Visa.

International students should take more care in deciding what to study as a level 5 or 6 course might not lead to a job that pays enough to qualify for residency. Especially, if you do not have a lot of experience yet, it might be a challenge to find an entry level job that meets the salary threshold.