Skilled migrant category
This summary is designed to provide basic information about migrating to New Zealand under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC).
The Skilled Migrant Category is structured to attract applicants (under the age of 56) to New Zealand who are highly skilled with certain specific managerial, professional and/or technical skills. Spouses and children of applicants can be included in one application.
The actual process of applying for residence under this category is points based and involves a two stage process.
Expression of interest (EOI) – Stage 1
The first stage of the application process involves lodging an Expression of Interest with Immigration New Zealand (INZ) which allows the applicant to accrue points by selecting a number of different criteria on which their application will be assessed.
These areas include:
- the applicant’s age
- their recognised qualifications
- work experience
- job offer from a New Zealand employer
- having a close family member who is a New Zealand resident/citizen
- qualifications and/or skilled employment for partners.
Bonus points may also be available based on additional factors such as whether their skilled employment is in an identified future growth area or in an area of absolute skills shortage.
All Expressions of Interest, once lodged, go into a pool and there are fortnightly draws from this pool. Those who have between 100 and 140 points, including points for a job offer or current skilled employment in New Zealand will generally be selected, while applicants with 140 points or more are selected automatically.
An applicant without a job offer or current skilled work in New Zealand can still potentially apply provided they can claim at least 140 points, however this process will be more difficult. Work experience or qualifications in a shortage area may mean that they are awarded sufficient points, however, without a skilled job offer or current skilled employment they can only claim work experience undertaken in a country with a “comparable labour market” to New Zealand. The exception is if the work experience was gained while working for a multinational entity.
No supporting documents needs to be provided during the first stage and the EOI simply outlines the number of points claimed and acts as a screening process for INZ.
The invitation to apply – Stage 2
After INZ has scrutinised the Expressions of Interest and made their selection, an applicant may then be invited to apply for residence based on the points they claimed.
After an applicant receives their Invitation to Apply for Residence they have four months from the date of the Invitation letter within which to provide all the supporting documentation including:
- police reports (which are valid for 6 months from date of issue)
- medical and X-ray reports (which are valid for 3 months from date of issue)
- all other documents which prove the claims made in the EOI (e.g. reference letters, qualifications, birth certificates, employment contracts and so forth).
The application and documents will then be verified by INZ and if the application meets all requirements, a resident visa will usually be granted.
The reality is that in most cases offshore applicants will not yet have a New Zealand job offer and accordingly they will require at least 140 points in order to be able to lodge an EOI. It is also likely that they will require qualifications and/or work experience in the identified shortage areas.
Another important point for potential offshore applicants is that anyone with over 140 points may be granted residence outright, in which case they can then travel to New Zealand and find employment and settle down.
In some cases INZ may decide to issue a Job Search visa rather than outright residence which will entitle the applicant to travel to New Zealand and try to find work. This open work visa is usually granted for 9 months and if the applicant finds skilled employment during that time, they can then move to secure residence. Unfortunately, if they are unable to find skilled employment, they cannot finalise their application. Some offshore residence applications may also be required to attend an interview with INZ to assess whether they are likely to settle well in New Zealand prior to granting residence.