Work visa changes for 2020

In two earlier posts, I outlined the changes and timeline for work visa applications in 2020. These changes only apply to work visa applications that are based on job offers. The first real change happens in mid-2020. Employment is either high-paid or low-paid. And this is determined by the hourly rate only. At the moment, a combination of an hourly rate and the ANZSCO skill level of an occupation determines the skill-band of the employment.

In the meantime, there are smaller, but important changes.

Change to hourly rate thresholds

Income thresholds for Essential Skills work visa and the Skilled Migrant Category resident visa are determined by the median income in New Zealand. They are adjusted every year. The new median wage is $53,040.

As of 24 February 2020, the new hourly rate thresholds for Essential Skills work visa are:

  • Low-skill band: below $21.68
  • Mid-skill band: $21.68 or above
  • High-skill band: $38.25

To qualify for a Skilled Migrant Category resident visa, you need to earn an hourly rate of at least $25.50. You can claim bonus points for a high income if your hourly rate is $51.00 or above. You, of course, also need to meet all the other requirements.


ANZSCO is the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations. In Essential Skills work visa applications the ANZSCO skill level together with the hourly determines the skill-band of employment.

In addition, in a Skilled Migrant Category resident visa application, the ANZSCO skill level of an occupation determines if your occupation is skilled. Only skill level 1, 2 and 3 applications are considered skilled. And only those with skilled employment may apply for residence (if all other requirements are met).

ANZSCO is managed by both the New Zealand and Australian Statistics agencies. They released a new version (1.3) on 5 November 2019. However, Immigration New Zealand has decided that they continue to use version 1.2. The reasons for this are a bit vague and they seem to make a quite simple situation quite complex.

A number of occupations (44), such as Personal Care Worker, Bookkeeper, Teacher’s Aide and Beauty Therapist are skill level 3 (instead of 4) in the new version. These occupations are now on an exemption list. If you have an offer of employment in one of the occupations on the list AND you earn $25 or more ($25.50 from 24 February 2020), the employment will be considered skilled and you are eligible for a 3-year visa. In addition, you may also qualify to apply for a Skilled Migrant Category resident visa.

Some occupations in the new release of ANZSCO, such as Cook, are downgraded from level 3 to level 4, making them unskilled. This does not have any implications until Immigration New Zealand starts to use the new version of ANZSCO.

The new ANZSCO 1.3 version will come into effect mid-2020 when other work visa changes are also introduced.

What do the work visa changes for 2020 mean for you?

If you have a work visa for a skill level 1, 2 or 3 occupation that is expiring soon AND you do not meet the new hourly rate thresholds, you may wish to apply for a new work visa before 24 February 2020. If you don’t, your employment will be assessed as lower-skill and, if granted, the work visa will be for 1 year.

You may be able to apply for a 3-year work visa if you have an occupation that is on the ANZSCO exemption list AND you earn at least $25.00 ($25.50 from 24 February 2020).