Changes to skilled migrant visa will offer more certainty for applicants, govt says.

The government has announced a revamped skilled migrant visa as part of an ongoing immigration settings rebalance since the pandemic border closures.

There is no cap on highly skilled workers, and a new six-point system is brought in to give certainty to migrants on their eligibility and clearer criteria with a faster pathway to residence for highly skilled people.

The Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) is also being extended from three to five years, and a five-year maximum continuous stay for this category is being introduced.

Michael Wood

Michael Wood Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Immigration Minister Michael Wood said the changes would help businesses attract the staff they said they needed as the global labour shortage bites.

"The new skilled migrant settings will help attract and retain skilled migrants to fill medium- to long-term skills needs that would take time to fill by workers already in New Zealand.
"The changes announced today to ensure there is no cap on skilled migrants remove an artificial constraint in the old system that set an indicative number of residence places available each year and prevented skilled migrants settling in New Zealand even when there was a demonstrable need."

From early October, the simplified points system will be introduced to set a clear skills threshold based on New Zealand occupational registration, recognised qualifications, or income.

All migrants applying for the Skilled Migrants Category (SMC) will have to have a job or a job offer in New Zealand with an accredited employer and be paid at least the median wage.

Applicants must have at least six points to be eligible; three to six points based on either New Zealand occupational registration, recognised qualifications or income, and one point per year of work in New Zealand in a skilled job, up to a maximum of three points.

They can claim points from the skill category that offers them the most points and the more points a person has, the shorter the period of skilled work the applicant will have to work before they can apply for residence.

The same age, English language, health and character requirements of the previous settings still apply.

Wood said once the changes took effect, highly skilled people would have a faster, clearer route to residence.

"The government has heard from businesses that giving certainty that skilled migrants and their families will be able to gain residence in New Zealand will be a big drawcard for attracting skilled workers.
"The new SMC complements other pathways to residence, such as the Green List, which is a narrower, occupation-specific pathway for those working in specified nationally significant and globally in-demand roles. This, along with simpler settings, means Immigration New Zealand will be able to process more applications faster."

Wood told Morning Report some migrants had their short-term work visas rolled over in the false hope they could one day become residents.

"We previously had a cohort of migrants on short term work visas that just kind of got sometimes rolled over in the false hope that they might get residency when there was never any realistic pathway and that led to bad outcomes for them."

Radio New Zealand, RNZ
June 20, 2023