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Overview of skilled residence pathways

Details of the 3 skills-based pathways that allow migrants to get New Zealand residence.

30 November 2023
5 minute read

Skilled migrants who want to get New Zealand residence have 3 skills-based pathways available to them if they meet the eligibility criteria:

  • Skilled Migrant Resident pathway 
  • Green List pathway, and 
  • Care Workforce and Transport Sector Agreement pathways. 

Some of the visas on these pathways allow migrants to apply for residence straight away, such as the Straight to Residence Visa. Other pathways may require migrants to work in New Zealand before they can apply for residence, such as the Work to Residence Visa. 

Skilled Migrant Category 

On 9 October 2023, changes to the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) Resident Visa came into effect, which:

  • sees a simplified points system that sets a clear skills threshold for residence, and
  • offers several ways for people to demonstrate their skill level.

Applicants for the SMC will need to have:

  • occupational registration (where an occupation has a regulated registration, licensing, or certification scheme in New Zealand and full registration requires at least 2 years of formal training or experience), or 
  • a Bachelor’s degree or higher level qualification, or
  • a skilled job earning at least 1.5 x median wage in New Zealand 

All applicants need a skilled job offer in New Zealand, and most applicants are required to spend time working in New Zealand before becoming eligible for residence. 

Under the new settings, there is no limit on the number of people who can gain residence if they meet the skills threshold. This, along with simpler settings, means applicants can expect faster decision times (where complete information is provided to Immigration New Zealand).  

The SMC supports New Zealand’s economic growth by targeting migrants who can fill medium-to-long term skilled jobs that are hard, or take time, to fill with workers already in New Zealand.  

Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa 

Green List pathways

In May 2022, as part of the Immigration Rebalance, the Government announced the Green List for highly skilled and in-demand workers. 

The Green List helps to address ongoing skill shortages by making migrant attraction and recruitment easier for specific roles, with clear residence pathways for eligible people.  

The Green List only contains a small number of highly skilled roles that have been identified as being in high demand globally, are nationally significant, and in ongoing shortage in New Zealand.  

These roles have registration, qualification, or experience requirements. 

There are 2 streamlined residence pathways for people in occupations on the Green List – a ‘straight to residence’ path, and a ‘work to residence’ path.  

The main requirement for both Green List pathways is the need to have a job in, or job offer for, one of the Green List occupations and meet the specified requirements on the list for the said occupation.  

The employment, or offer of employment, must also be full-time (at least 30 hours per week), genuine, and be permanent or for at least a 12-month fixed term contract. 

Independent contractors are eligible for the straight to residence pathway, with some additional criteria.   

Straight to residence pathway

The Straight to Residence Visa provides a pathway for eligible migrants on an Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) with Tier 1 Green List roles.  

Green List Roles 

Straight to Residence Visa 

Work to residence pathway

The Work to Residence Visa provides a pathway for eligible migrants with at least 24 months of acceptable work in New Zealand. Acceptable work means having worked in a Tier 2 Green List role and meeting the specified requirements for that role for the duration of the 24-month period.  

Green List Roles

Work to Residence Visa 

The care workforce and transport sector agreement pathways

Care workforce pathway

The Care Workforce Work to Residence Visa allows care workers paid NZD $28.25 an hour (level 4) of the Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlements Act 2017 to gain residence after 24 months. 

Care Workforce Work to Residence Visa  

Transport sector pathway

In December 2022, the Immigration Minister announced a Transport Sector Agreement with a 2-year work to residence pathway for truck drivers and bus drivers. This was put in place to support critical national infrastructure (including public transport, waste collection and supply chains) as the industry works towards increasing training of New Zealanders and improving pay and conditions.  

As part of this agreement, bus drivers are eligible for a median wage exemption of $28 an hour if they are either: 

  • working for an employer who has signed an All-Parties Memorandum of Understanding on Improving Driver Terms and Conditions for the region they are working in (list of eligible employers provided by Waka Kotahi), or 
  • working as a school bus driver on a Ministry of Education-funded school bus service (list of operators provided by Ministry of Education), or
  • working as a school bus driver on a service directly contracted to a school. 

Truck drivers will not receive an exemption from the median wage threshold as part of the sector agreement, as the market rate for skilled workers in a truck driver role is already above the median wage. 

Bus and truck drivers are able to apply for residence through this pathway from 29 September 2023, if they have completed 2 years' of work experience.  

Transport Work to Residence Visa

Sector agreements and hiring migrants on an AEWV