New Zealand Immigration Policy Update May 2017

What the proposed immigration changes could mean for you

You may know that Immigration New Zealand has recently proposed three significant changes to Immigration policy. Should they become actual policy – they may affect your application.

We have explained the main points so you can get abreast of the proposed changes.

Review of Essential Skills Work Visa policy

Immigration New Zealand is reviewing the Essential Skills Work Visa policy. The proposals are also designed to stop the reoccurrence of pools of long-term temporary migrants with no pathway to a residence.

Proposed changes:

New remuneration bands have been set to determine the skill level of an Essential Skills visa holder.

In practice what this means is that a person earning under $49k pa would be deemed as unskilled but conversely, an unskilled occupation earning over $73k pa would be deemed as skilled regardless.

There is a proposal to have a maximum duration of three years for lower-skilled Essential Skills visa holders.

The intention is to provide a balance between giving visa holders the opportunity to transition to a more highly-skilled Essential Skills Visa or obtain residence, while also ensuring that migrants with no pathway to residence do not become well-settled in New Zealand.

This proposed change is also meant to provide employers with sufficient time to recruit new staff or upskill existing staff to fill the role.

This change will not affect candidates currently on an Essential Skills Work Visa and will only come into effect at their next application.

The third proposal around the Essential Skills Visa aligns the ability of visa holders to bring their children and partners to New Zealand, with the new skill levels.

This would mean that work visa holders earning under the 49K pa threshold will not be able to support bringing their families. Again, this will not affect families that are already here and can remain here for the duration of the visa.

There will be a consultation with industry, after which point the changes will be implemented in August 2017.

Changes affecting the Residence Visa under the Skilled Migrant Category:

Two remuneration thresholds are being introduced for applicants applying for residence under the Skilled Migration Category.

One will be set at the New Zealand median income of $48,859 a year for jobs that are currently considered skilled. What this means is that if your role in New Zealand is considered “skilled”, but you earn under the $49k threshold, then you will likely not meet the requirements for residency.

The other threshold will be set at 1.5 times the New Zealand median income of $73,299 a year for jobs that are not currently considered skilled but are well paid. What this means is that if your role in New Zealand is not deemed to be “skilled” but earns over the higher threshold of $73k then you could meet the policy requirements for residency.

The automatic selection mark for applicants under the SMC was increased from 140 points to 160 in October last year and we can expect further changes to how the points are allocated.

More points will be available for skilled work experience and some recognised post graduate qualifications, and points for age will increase for applicants aged 30-39.

Points will no longer be available for qualifications in areas of absolute skills shortage, for employment, work experience and qualifications in Identified Future Growth Areas and for close family in New Zealand.People with applications already with Immigration New Zealand will not be affected.

South Island and the South Island Contribution Visa

Immigration has realised that there is a big pool of low-skilled temporary migrants who have been in New Zealand long-term and have become well settled here but have no pathway to residence.

The South Island Contribution Visa has been created as a one-off pathway to residence for around 1,600 migrant workers and their families who have been living in the South island for more than five years.


Eligible migrants will be granted an initial Work to Residence temporary visa, which would make them eligible for residence after two years provided they stay in the same industry and region. They will then be granted a resident visa, with conditions requiring them to stay in the same South Island region for a further two years.

This new policy is scheduled to come into effect on 22 May 2017. Applications will be accepted for 12 months from the effective date.

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