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  • September 7, 2017

New Zealand Skilled Migrant Category Changes Explained

On August 28th the new rules for Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) Residency applications came into effect. The new rules simultaneously opened the door to some hopeful new residents, while also closing the door on others.

The key changes which will affect most applicants under the Skilled Migrant Category are:

Skilled Work

Under the new rules, Immigration New Zealand has a new standard for “skilled work”. INZ will no longer determine whether employment is skilled solely on the job’s ANZSCO level. The new criteria will also consider remuneration levels.

In order to qualify for points for skilled employment, a job must be either:
• ANZSCO Level 1, 2, or 3, with a remuneration package equivalent to NZD 23.49 per hour, or
• ANZSCO Level 4 or 5 (or not listed in the ANZSCO) but with a remuneration package of NZD 35.24.

The new thresholds are aimed at excluding low-paid and low-skilled workers from applying for residence, while providing an opportunity to highly-skilled and valuable employees in roles which were considered “unskilled” under the previous rules.

High-pay jobs

Employees who enjoy a pay package equivalent to NZD 46.98 per hour, or more, will be eligible to receive bonus points.

Future Growth Areas

Applications under the Skilled Migrant Category will no longer be eligible to claims bonus points for jobs or education in areas which were previously classed as being “future growth” areas.


Recognized level 9 and level 10 qualifications will now receive extra points under the skilled migrant category.

However, principal applicants will no longer receive bonus points for degrees held in a field which is considered to be in an area of absolute skill shortage.

The qualifications held by partners will still reward points, however, the degree must be Bachelor’s degree level, or higher.

Close Family

The points previously available for close family already living in New Zealand has been scrapped under the new Skilled Migrant Category criteria.


No age brackets will see a reduction in the points offered, however, the 30-39 bracket will see an increase.

Work Experience

The points available for work experience have been tightened. A limit has been placed on the points which can be claimed for New Zealand experience. The points for work experience will be raised, but these points will be restricted to bonus points only.

Application restrictions

Residency under the Skilled Migrant Category will only be granted to applicants who hold either a job/job offer or those who have completed a Master’s degree or Doctorate degree in New Zealand.

Job Search Visa

Any applicants who have claimed the required 160 points, but does not have a job offer or New Zealand degree may still have a chance. Applicants receive a Job Search Visa, allowing them to come to New Zealand to find employment.

If you want to test to see if you can claim enough points under the Skilled Migrant Category, try our online Points Indicator. For an even more accurate picture, make an appointment to talk to our licensed immigration advisers.


None of the above is intended or offered as personalized immigration advice.

If you require any immigration advice or consultation, please contact our Wellington immigration adviser as soon as possible.

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