Immigration alert – Skilled Migrant Residence Update

11 Jul 23

New Skilled Migrant Category

The Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) has been the main residence pathway in New Zealand for many years. In April 2020 Expressions of Interest (EOI) selections were suspended. The category reopened in November 2022 as an interim measure, while changes to this residence pathway were being consulted on.

In June 2023 a new SMC was announced. The objective of this category was to support economic growth by providing for the grant of residence visas to people who demonstrate that they can fill medium to long-term skill needs in New Zealand. Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has described this updated category as a faster route to residence for highly skilled individuals, with straightforward and complete applications set to be decided within two months.

This new category uses a simplified 6-point skills assessment, with no cap on the number of migrants that can be approved each year. It will be introduced on 9 October 2023, with final EOI selections under the existing category on 16 August 2023.

What are the new eligibility criteria?

To qualify for residence under the new SMC an applicant must:

  • Be 55 years or younger at the time of application
  • Meet good health and character requirements
  • Have an acceptable level of English
  • Have skilled employment with an accredited employer. Employment will be considered skilled if sits at:
    • ANZSCO level 1-3 with payment at median wage ($29.66 hourly); or
    • ANZSCO level 4-5 with payment at 1.5x median wage ($44.49 hourly).
  • Claim six eligibility points. This can be made up of:
    • Between three to six points for:
      • Occupational registration; or
      • A recognised qualification; or
      • Meeting certain income thresholds.
    • A further three points for skilled New Zealand work experience (one point per year).

Who will benefit most from this category?

Individuals with PhD qualifications, occupational registration requiring six years of training or high-income earners ($88.98+ hourly) will benefit the most from this policy change. These individuals will be able to secure six points, without needing to spend time working in New Zealand, in qualifying skilled employment.

To use an example, an individual with a recognised PhD and an offer for skilled employment with an accredited employer can apply for residence on 9 October 2023. If the application is complete and there are no unexpected eligibility issues (e.g. a character concern), the application could be approved within two months.

SMC Interim Visa

An interim visa will be introduced to allow individuals to remain in New Zealand if an SMC application has been submitted but their temporary visa expires before a decision is made. SMC interim visas will be granted with the below conditions.

Visa category Interim visa conditions
Visitor Visitor
Student Student (open) with the same work rights
Work (employer) Same employer, occupation and location
Work (open) Work (open)


These SMC interim visas will have multiple entry travel conditions and can be issued for up to 24 months. This is a positive update, which should largely avoid the need to renew temporary visas while waiting for an SMC application to be decided.

Accredited Employer Work Visa update

Migrants with no skilled residence pathway will be limited to a five-year stay on an Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV). After five years, at least 12 months must be spent outside of New Zealand before a further AEWV can be applied for.

Five-year AEWVs will be granted from November 2023. Migrants holding three-year AEWVs will be able to apply for the balance, without an employer needing to submit a further job check application. This is provided the visa conditions (employer, location and occupation) remain the same.

Our thoughts

We recommend migrants considering New Zealand residence have an eligibility assessment completed under both the current and proposed SMC categories. If the current SMC is the more favourable (or only) option, an EOI must be submitted before 15 August 2023.


If you have any questions about this article, please contact Tash Rae or a member of our specialist Employment Team.

PDF version: here.

For more information contact:

Tash Rae