Recent Changes to the Skilled Migrant Resident Visa and Accredited Employer Work Visa Categories

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Summary of updates:
  • The Skilled Migrant Resident category has changed its eligiblity process to a simplified 6 point system which will be introduced from October 2023.
  • Introduction of the new Skilled Migrant Category Interim Visa which will be issued to applicants with expiring temporary visas while waiting on the decision of their resident visa application.
  • From November 2023, Accredited Employer Work Visa holders will now be subject to a 12 month stand down period once they have held an Accredited Employer Work Visa continuously for 5 years.
Introduction of the New 6 Point System:

The Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) Resident Visa’s eligibility point system has undergone significant changes. SMC has a known history for its complexities, inconsistency and delayed assessment timeframes. These updates aim to simplify the application process, streamline the assessment and intend to assist with the country’s labour and economic needs. It is refreshing to see change in this category, but, have they got it right this time?

From October 2023, the current system, requiring a minimum of 180 points, will be replaced by the new 6 point system. A simplified approach, which equates 6 years of human capital to the minimum required 6 points. The claimable categories have been narrowed down to New Zealand occupational registration, qualifications, high income (1.5 median wage or more), and skilled work experience in New Zealand.

What are the new point categories?

Previously, points could be obtained from categories such as age, employment outside of Auckland, partner’s skilled employment or qualification, and more. The new categories and associated points are shown in the table below and summarised below:

  1. High Income: Either skilled employment with a income of 1.5 or 3x median wage will allocate between 3 to 6 points;
  2. Qualification: Having obtained a bachelor’s degree (NZQA Level 7) or higher through to a PhD (NZQA Level 10). All trade certificates and diplomas will no longer qualify for points. Additionally, any NZQA Level 7 qualifications which are not a bachelor’s degree are also excluded;
  3. NZ Professional Registration: Maintaining occupational registration will provide between 3 to 6 points dependant on years required to receive registration. The list of occupation relevant to this category can be found here.
Cannot combine skill category points

You can only claim points for one skill category, either under the NZ professional registration, qualification or high income and cannot combine points within the same category.

For example:

  • An applicant maintains professional registration with 4 years training/work experience and also earns 1.5 x median wage. They would claim 4 points for professional registration and not the additional 3 points for 1.5 x median wage.
  • An applicant has obtained a bachelor’s degree and a honour’s degree. They would only claim for the honours’ degree of 4 points and not the additional 3 for the bachelor’s degree.
Skilled Work Experience

Applicants coming in short of 6 points from their skill category can claim the remaining required 1 to 3 points from skilled work experience in New Zealand. Note, overseas work experience is no longer able to be claimed and assessed for points.

Have any other elements of the The Skilled Migrant Category process changed?

In short, no. All other requirements such as maintaining full time skilled employment, English language, age restriction, health and character requirements all remain as they were.

The Skilled Migrant Category Interim Visa

Another change is the introduction of the SMC Interim Visa. An interim visa is a type of bridging visa which permits you to remain lawful in New Zealand for the period between expiry of the applicant’s temporary visa and the approval of the newly applied visa. Previously interim visas were not issued when the pending application was a residency application. This meant applicants had to apply for a new temporary visa while waiting on the outcome of their residency. This new interim visa will permit applicants to remain lawfully until the outcome of their SMC application.

Reduced Processing Times

To expedite the visa application process, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has announced that application-ready submissions will receive responses within 6-8 weeks. This is a welcome change for applicants considering previous lengthy waiting times.

Maximum stay of 5 yrs in NZ on Accredited Employer Work Visas

Commencing from November 2023, changes to the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) will now limit visa holders to a maximum continuous stay of 5 years. This means for individuals who are not eligible to apply for a resident or alternative temporary visa will need to spend 12 months outside of New Zealand (stand-down period) before applying for a new AEWV. This measure aims to strike a balance between meeting the workforce needs of employers while ensuring that the visa system is not exploited for long-term stays without a clear pathway to residency.

For more information on these changes please review Immigration New Zealand’s website here.

This is general advice only and accurate from announcements dated 21 June 2023. This information is subject to change pending policy to be released by Immigration New Zealand.  If you have specific queries or wish to discuss your personal circumstances, please contact or phone 03 441 0616.

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