New Skilled Migrant Category announced by Immigration NZ

Published 25 July 2023 | 2 min read

Challenges in attracting highly skilled talent

We are all aware of the challenges in finding highly skilled individuals to fill medium to long-term skill needs in a business. The Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) has been the primary residence pathway for years, but the process has been cumbersome and time-consuming, leading to frustrations and delays in securing skilled talent. In April 2020, Expressions of Interest (EOI) selections were suspended, adding to the difficulties. Although the category reopened in November 2022 as an interim measure, changes were still being consulted on, leaving employers uncertain about the future of skilled immigration in the country.

As the demand for skilled workers continues to grow, it is essential to have a streamlined and efficient immigration system that attracts highly educated and skilled individuals. The existing complexities and delays in the immigration process could potentially hinder economic growth and the ability of businesses to meet their skill needs. The frustration of waiting for extended periods to fill crucial positions may force some employers to explore alternative options or even limit their growth potential.

A faster route to residence for highly skilled individuals.

In June 2023, the New Zealand government announced a game-changing update to the Skilled Migrant Category. The objective of this new category is to support economic growth by providing a faster route to residence for highly skilled individuals. The process aims to be straightforward, with complete applications expected to be decided within two months. This significant change is set to come into effect on 9 October 2023, giving employers a more efficient and reliable pathway to attract skilled talent to New Zealand.

In the past, the SMC process faced challenges due to complex skills assessments and limitations on the number of migrants approved each year. These factors resulted in delayed decisions and frustrations for both employers and applicants. Furthermore, the temporary visa expiry while waiting for an SMC application to be decided created additional uncertainties for individuals looking to make New Zealand their home.

Streamlined and efficient

The new Skilled Migrant Category introduces a simplified six-point skills assessment, removing the cap on the number of migrants that can be approved each year. This change is expected to expedite the immigration process, making it easier for businesses to fill skill gaps quickly. To be eligible for residence under the new SMC, applicants must be 55 years or younger, meet good health and character requirements, possess an acceptable level of English, and have skilled employment with an accredited employer. Skilled employment is defined as ANZSCO level 1-3 with payment at the median wage, or ANZSCO level 4-5 with payment at 1.5x the median wage.

The new eligibility criteria prioritize individuals with PhD qualifications, occupational registration requiring six years of training, or high-income earners ($88.98+ hourly). These individuals can secure six points without needing to spend time working in New Zealand, making it more attractive for top talent to consider New Zealand as their new home.

Additionally, the introduction of SMC interim visas will allow individuals to remain in New Zealand while waiting for their residence applications to be decided. These interim visas will have multiple entry travel conditions and can be issued for up to 24 months, significantly reducing the need to renew temporary visas and providing much-needed stability to skilled migrants.

Furthermore, the update to the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) will limit migrants with no skilled residence pathway to a five-year stay. After five years, at least 12 months must be spent outside of New Zealand before another AEWV can be applied for. This change aims to strike a balance between meeting immediate skill needs and encouraging long-term residency for highly skilled individuals.

In conclusion, the New Skilled Migrant Category coming into effect on 9 October 2023 is poised to revolutionize skilled immigration in New Zealand. By simplifying the application process, eliminating the cap on approvals, and providing more stability for temporary visa holders, this category is a step towards fostering economic growth and enabling businesses to secure the highly skilled workforce they need. As managers and decision-makers, you now have a promising and efficient solution to attract and retain talented individuals to contribute to the success of your organizations and the New Zealand economy as a whole.

References: HRD - New Skilled Migrant Category coming into effect.

Back to Articles