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Skilled Migrant Category changes Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The Government has announced a package of changes designed to better manage immigration and improve the labour market contribution of temporary and permanent migration.

Two remuneration thresholds are being introduced for applicants applying for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC). One will be set at the New Zealand median income of $48,859 a year for jobs that are currently considered skilled. The other threshold will be set at 1.5 times the New Zealand median income of $73,299 a year for jobs that are not currently considered skilled but are well paid.

The automatic selection mark for applicants under the SMC was increased from 140 points to 160 in October last year and the Government has now realigned the points system to put more emphasis on characteristics associated with better outcomes for migrants.

More points will be available for skilled work experience and some recognised post graduate qualifications, and points for age will increase for applicants aged 30-39.

Points will no longer be available for qualifications in areas of absolute skills shortage, for employment, work experience and qualifications in Identified Future Growth Areas and for close family in New Zealand.

The changes will be implemented in mid-August 2017.

Read the Minister of Immigration's media release


Questions and answers

How is the SMC changing?

Amendments are being made to the Skilled Migrant Category to improve the skill composition and ensure we are attracting migrants who bring the most economic benefits to New Zealand. The changes affect many aspects of the policy, including changes to:

  • The way that ‘skilled employment’ and ‘work experience’ are assessed and awarded points.
  • The points awarded for qualifications and age.
  • Points for some factors will be removed.

When will you know the details of the points allocation?

The Cabinet papers relating to the policy announcements have now been proactively released so the proposed values are accessible.

We expect to have the points allocations confirmed in late June/early July.

Cabinet papers

When will the changes come into effect?

14 August 2017.

Are the changes designed to allow fewer people to be granted residence under the SMC?

While there will be an impact on some people in low paid employment, the changes expand the definition of skilled employment to allow some people to obtain residence who have previously been unable to claim points for their employment in New Zealand – people who are not currently considered to be in skilled employment because their job is not in an Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) skill level 1, 2 or 3 occupation will be able to claim points for their job if they are earning $73,299 or more per year.

Will particular types of applicants benefit from the changes?

The changes put more focus on skilled work experience, more recognition of skill levels in the 30-39 age group and high salary levels.

What are the specific changes in each policy area?

Skilled employment

  • The same number of points will be awarded for both an offer of skilled employment and current skilled employment in New Zealand.
  • Remuneration thresholds are being introduced as an additional means of defining skilled employment.
  • Applicants with jobs at ANZSCO skill levels 1, 2 and 3 will only be awarded points for their employment if they are paid at or above NZ$48,859 per year (or NZ$23.49 per hour).
  • Applicants with jobs that are not in ANZSCO skill level 1, 2 or 3 occupations may be assessed as being in skilled employment if they are paid at or above NZ$73,299 per year (or NZ$35.24 per hour).
  • Bonus points will be awarded for remuneration at or above NZ$97,718.00 per year (or NZ$46.98 per hour)
  • Remuneration thresholds will be updated annually based on New Zealand income data.

Work experience

  • More points will be available for work experience.
  • Points will be awarded for skilled work experience in ANZSCO skill level 1, 2 and 3 occupations.
  • Points will be awarded for skilled New Zealand work experience of 12 months or more. There will be no additional points for work experience of two years or more.

Qualifications, age and partner’s qualifications

  • Points available for recognised level 9 or 10 post-graduate qualifications (Master’s degrees and Doctorates) will increase.
  • Points for people aged 30 – 39 years will increase.
  • Partner’s qualifications will only be awarded points if they are a recognised Bachelor’s level degree or higher or a recognised post-graduate (level 9 or higher) qualification.

Which factors will applicants no longer be able to gain points for?

Points for the following factors will be removed:

  • qualifications in an area of absolute skills shortage
  • skilled employment, work experience and qualifications in Identified Future Growth Areas
  • close family support in New Zealand

Are there any changes to the health, character or English language requirements?

No there are no changes to these aspects of the SMC instructions.

Why is the SMC changing?

The Government is committed to ensuring our immigration settings best support the economy and the labour market. These changes are designed to improve the skill composition of the SMC and ensure that it prioritises higher-paid and higher-skilled migrants.

Is there any way to comment or provide feedback on the SMC changes?

No. The proposals were already consulted on in 2016 and the changes will happen in August 2017.

Will the selection point change when the new SMC comes into effect?

The selection point is able to be adjusted by the Minister of Immigration as necessary for the overall planning range of the New Zealand Residence Programme, so the selection point may change from time to time. There is no information at the present time concerning where the selection point will be set when the adjusted Skilled Migrant Category is implemented.

Will the salary thresholds change?

The salary thresholds are based on information from New Zealand income data and will be reviewed annually.

Will there be a regional variation to the remuneration thresholds?

No there is no regional variation.

Will the new policies affect the way that student visas are assessed?

The changes apply to the SMC residence policy, not student visa instructions.

Do the changes to SMC affect the post study work visas available to graduates?

No. There are no changes to post study work visas (graduate job search or employer assisted) as a result of these SMC announcements.

It was announced that graduates of level 9 and 10 qualifications will be able to claim more points under the SMC for those qualifications. Does this mean that there will be fewer points for qualifications under level 9?

No. There are no point reductions for qualifications below level 9.

There are students who commenced their studies under the impression that they would meet the points threshold and be able to apply for SMC. What happens to current students who are worried that they won’t meet SMC requirements because of the recent changes?

While we understand that changes to immigration policies can cause confusion and uncertainty for students, they will need to meet the SMC requirements that apply at the time they lodge their application. People whose EoIs are selected from the SMC Pool before the change to the policy will be able to apply under the current rules if their selection results in an invitation to apply.

I have already submitted my SMC application but it has not yet been finalised.  What will happen to my application if it is not decided until after 14 August?

Because your application was submitted before 14 August it will continue to be assessed under the current instructions.

My SMC Expression of Interest (EoI) has been selected from the SMC Pool but I have not yet been invited to apply: if I obtain an invitation to apply before 14 August but do not submit my SMC residence application until after 14 August, can I be assessed under the current SMC instructions?

If your Invitation to Apply was issued on the basis of a selection from the SMC Pool before the policy change your application will be assessed under the SMC instructions that were in place at the time your EoI was selected, regardless of whether you application is submitted after 14 August.  The application must be received within the standard four month limit.

If my EoI is selected from the SMC Pool before 14 August but is then returned to the Pool, what will happen to my EoI?

If your EoI has been selected from the Pool but is returned to the Pool because it does not meet the requirements for an Invitation to Apply, you will be able to edit and resubmit your EoI on the new EoI form, at no cost.  The new form will reflect the new requirements. However if, as a result of the changes, you are no longer able to claim 100 points, your EoI will not be accepted into the Pool.

When will more detailed information be available about the changes to the SMC?

We hope to have more information available in June 2017.