The 3 Pathways to Residence for Skilled Professionals

There are now 3 main pathways to residence in New Zealand for skilled professionals:

  • The Skilled Migrant Resident pathway
  • The Green List pathway
  • The Care Workforce and Transport Sector Agreement pathways.

Some of the visas on these pathways allow migrants to apply for residence straight away, such as the Straight to Residence Visa. Other pathways may require migrants to work in New Zealand before they can apply for residence, such as the Work to Residence Visa.

All these pathways require you to have relevant New Zealand employment in place.

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The Skilled Migrant Category pathway

The requirements of the new Skilled Migrant Category

Under the new Skilled Migrant Category, which came into effect in October 2023, applicants for the SMC will need to have:

  • occupational registration (where an occupation has a regulated registration, licensing, or certification scheme in New Zealand and full registration requires at least 2 years of formal training or experience), or
  • a Bachelor’s degree or higher level qualification, or
  • a skilled job earning at least 1.5 x median wage in New Zealand

The points system of the SMC

The new Skilled Migrant Category is based on a simplified points system.

You need 6 points to apply for the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa. These can be made up from:

  • 3 to 6 points based on New Zealand occupational registration, qualifications, or income, and
  • 1 point for each year of work in New Zealand in a skilled job, up to a maximum of 3 points.
  • You must have a job or a job offer in New Zealand to apply.

All applicants need a skilled job offer in New Zealand, and most applicants are required to spend time working in New Zealand before becoming eligible for residence.

The 2 Green List pathways

The Green List helps to address ongoing skill shortages.

There are 2 streamlined residence pathways for people in occupations on the Green List – a ‘straight to residence’ path, and a ‘work to residence’ path.  

The main requirement for both Green List pathways is the need to have a job in, or job offer for, one of the Green List occupations and meet the specified requirements on the list for the said occupation.  

  1. If you have a job offer for an occupation on the Tier 1 list and you meet the specified qualification, registration, and wage requirements, you can apply for the Straight to Residence Visa.
  2. If you have a job or job offer for an occupation on the Tier 2 list and you meet the specified qualification, registration, and wage requirements, you will need 2 years’ of relevant work in New Zealand on a specified visa. After this, you can apply for a Work to Residence Visa.

The Care Workforce and Transport Sector Agreements pathways

If you have a job or job offer for an occupation in a specified sector agreement, and you meet the specified qualification, registration, and wage requirements, you need 2 years of relevant work in New Zealand on a specified visa.

Care workforce pathway

The Care Workforce Work to Residence Visa allows care workers paid NZD $28.25 an hour  to gain residence after 24 months.

Transport sector pathway

In December 2022, the Immigration Minister announced a Transport Sector Agreement with a 2-year work to residence pathway for truck drivers and bus drivers.

As part of this agreement, bus drivers are eligible for a median wage exemption of $28 an hour if they are either:

  • working for an employer who has signed an All-Parties Memorandum of Understanding on Improving Driver Terms and Conditions for the region they are working in (list of eligible employers provided by Waka Kotahi), or
  • working as a school bus driver on a Ministry of Education-funded school bus service (list of operators provided by Ministry of Education), or
  • working as a school bus driver on a service directly contracted to a school.

Truck drivers will not receive an exemption from the median wage threshold as part of the sector agreement, as the market rate for skilled workers in a truck driver role is already above the median wage.

Bus and truck drivers are able to apply for residence through this pathway from 29 September 2023, if they have completed 2 years' of work experience.  

The reality of navigating the pathways to Permanent Residence for Professionals

In practice, several hurdles will have to be overcome before you can reach your goal of becoming a permanent resident in New Zealand as a professional.

You need a job in New Zealand.

Obtaining a job offer in New Zealand will be a vital component of your immigration process.

But while job hunting in New Zealand you will most probably experience that it can be difficult to get a job offer as long as you do not have a visa yet.

Some job listings even state: "Only applicants with the right to work in New Zealand may apply."

You will need a visa for New Zealand.

To be eligible for a work or resident visa you will need a job or and offer of employment. With the introduction of the new Resident Visa Pathways for skilled migrants this is now even more valid than ever.

You are caught in a Catch-22:

No visa without a job and no job without a visa.

The Solution: Our NZIC Fusion Service - A Holistic Approach to your Migration Journey

At NZIC we have two teams of professionals working for you: Our Licensed Immigration Advisers and our Job Search Consultants.

They will provide you with expert visa assistance and an outstanding level of supports during your job hunt.

Together our Licensed Immigration Advisers and Job Search Professionals will manage and navigate your complex immigration process by closely aligning your visa process and your job hunt with each other and by working with you simultanously on all levels.

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Find out more about our Fusion Service.

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