New Occupations Deemed Skilled For Resident Visas – With Catches

November 1, 2019
Iain MacLeod

The government has sprung something of a surprise this week and added 44 jobs to those deemed to be ‘skilled’ for the purposes of a skilled migrant category resident visa application.

(Before I go any further, an occupation being ‘skilled’ is not the same as an occupation that appears on a ‘regional skill shortage’ list. Skilled jobs and skills shortages refer to two quite different things in the visa world.)

There is in fact no list that INZ works off to determine which jobs are skilled and which are not for the purposes of residency visas. A job offer is skilled if the tasks closely align with an occupation that is assigned to Skill level 1, 2 or 3 in the Australia and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO).

People always get confused by regional skills shortage lists (you should think, work visas) and what occupations are deemed to be skilled for residence (you should think, ANZSCO).

Some of the more interesting additions to what is considered ‘skilled’ for residence are:


Care workers (elder, geriatric, hospital, and similar)

Child care workers

Out of School Hours Care Workers (aka Nanny)

Child Care Worker

Day Care Worker

Teacher Aide


Various ‘Operator’ jobs in saw mills, milk factories, textiles and yarn (of which NZ has little left of these industries these days) and manufacturing


Lower level insurance type workers and some more clerical roles


Tour Guides

Fishing Guides

Bungy Jump Master (olé!!)

Travel Consultant

Trekking Guide

White Water Rafting Guide

Beauty Therapist (until recently only massage/sports therapist was skilled)



On the face of it great news if you work in one of these occupations. As always however you need to look beyond headlines.

The catch?

Skilled employment, in addition to everything else, requires an effective $25 per hour.

Many of these occupations do not pay $25 per hour minimum and next year that figure will increase to $25.50 in order for them to be skilled for resident visa purposes. An exception is Care Workers who under a collective contract are earning $25.50 now.

To secure a Work Visa for 12 months doing one of these jobs, an applicant needs to be offered the minimum statutory wage which is $17.70 per hour.

Most will fall somewhere in between those two numbers.

Consequently, there is still not going to be a pathway to residence for a great many people working in these occupations in New Zealand unless employers offering such jobs significantly increase the effective hourly rate by a few dollars per hour.

The obvious question is why has Government added these to the group of occupations deemed to be skilled?

I’d suggest for some of these occupations (all the ‘Operators’ listed for example) this represents nothing more than reset. The Australia New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) has just been ‘upgraded’ and the 44 occupations now recognised as being skilled for residence have been reclassified from Level 4 or 5 (not usually skilled for the purposes of a resident visa unless coming wth $37.50 per hour) to Level 3.

For a job offer to be skilled for residence it must be a Skill Level 1, 2 or 3 occupation.

So it makes sense that these occupations, having been bumped up to Level 3, now become skilled for residence purposes.

ANZSCO is also used to determine how long a work visa should be valid for – the higher the skill level the longer the duration. Skill Level 4 or 5 occupations only get a maximum of 12 months (but can be renewed, all other things being equal, for two more ‘chunks’ of 12 months each). Skill level 1 roles get up to 5 years.

From mid-2020 ANZSCO will no longer be used for work visa length determination and the effective hourly rate will determine how long someone’s work visa will be granted for.

Before those of you that might work in one of these 44 occupations, remember for residence purposes you are going to need to earn around $52,000 a year (for a 40 our week). Some of these occupations will earn that but a great number will not, especially outside of Auckland.

There may be some recognition here (and a reaction to industry lobbying) that NZ will by 2021 be some 50,000 hospitality and tourism related workers short. Adding Tour and Adventure Guides and the like might be recognition that the Government needs to attract overseas talent longer term and offering them a pathway to residence might be one way of filling roles New Zealanders don’t much seem to fancy.

By requiring ‘foreigners’ to earn $52,000 (next year $53,040), I am wondering if this isn’t an attempt to raise incomes in what is traditionally a low paying sector. If you pay the foreigners more to get them into work, surely you’ll be forced to pay the locals the same as well – and that is no bad thing (but your next bungy jump might have just got even more ludicrously expensive).

On the ‘care worker’ front, I wonder if this too is not a sensible reaction to years of industry lobbying, and an attempt by Government to push up local wages in the sector. Our hospitals and rest homes are full of care workers who are on short-term work visas and that creates an enormous churn in staff and difficulty attracting workers to roles New Zealanders definitely don’t seem to want. By offering these people a potential pathway to residency, if they earn enough, we might be able to attract more such workers to deal with a rapidly ageing population.

Like tourism and hospitality, care workers are normally at the lower end of the income spectrum so again I speculate this might be a lever being pulled by government to increase salaries and wages in that sector – because if you have to pay a migrant that much more to do the job to keep them on longer term, you will certainly pay a local the same and if that means pay rises for the locals, more of them might be interested in doing the work. This has interesting implications for our national, tax payer funded health system and District Health Boards (Government owned) which are currently $1 billion in debt. With healthy surpluses I expect the Government will be willing to keep raising salaries to this underpaid sector.

This could actually be a very interesting experiment on how Government can leverage migrants to push up local wages.

I repeat however that the significant majority of the occupations that have been re-classified as Skilled Level 3 will likely not pay the money right now that is required to secure residence, but will be enough for short-term work visas.

So, if you attach eyelashes or paint toenails for a living, or fancy working as a nanny in New Zealand, it’s unlikely you will earn enough to meet the current income threshold for a long term stay and permanent residence. Work Visa? probably. Given every year that income threshold is only going to increase, it is reasonable to assume it will become ever harder in future unless as a country are willing to start paying a lot more for currently relatively low paying jobs.

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