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New Skilled Migrant Policy For New Zealand Explained

October 12, 2022
Iain MacLeod

The Minister of Immigration has today announced changes to the skilled migrant category to be implemented next year. On one level it looks quite simple but drilling down it won’t make much difference for migrants coming to New Zealand – they still have to find jobs to get visas.

Down the years immigration policy criteria has become, arguably, more and more difficult for many immigration officers to understand let alone implement. That has not just contributed to backlogs but to inconsistent outcomes.

Today’s announcement was a dumbed down policy for a dumbed down bureaucracy.

As I have predicted it is not being rolled out until ‘mid 2023’. The reason for that is obvious – there’s still 60,000 Resident Visas, most of which are for people promised ‘fast track’ that are sitting gathering dust.

Here are the key points:

  1. The skilled migrant “points” system that was closed in March 2020 is now reopening. Anyone who thinks they score 160 points under the criteria in place when the policy was suspended in 2020 can now file an expression of interest only until 9 November; then
  2. The system will then take a holiday till 18 January 2023 when only those who (think they) score 180 points under the criteria that were in place in March 2020 can file an EOI and they will be selected with pool draws taking place. everything three weeks; then
  3. In “mid 2023” a new system will be put in place, the broad details of which have been released as a proposed policy so will likely have some tweaks.
  4. There will be no annual quota of skilled visas. That is potentially huge – we now have an annual quota of infinity.
  5. Accredited Employer Work Visas can now only be issued for three years then holders must leave the country for 12 months before returning. That was not announced by the Minister, but contained in the fine print in another document. That’s a radical departure.

New criteria

Under the proposed new system points will no longer be awarded for age or overseas work experience but the primary applicant must still be under the age of 56 (presumably when they are invited to apply for residency).

Applicants will continue to be tested for their English language ability (and one must assume partners and children aged over 16) and must have an acceptable standard of health and character.

Applicants will continue to be required to secure skilled employment or hold an offer of skilled employment but no points are going to be awarded for it

No points will be granted for overseas work experience but will be for a maximum of three years of New Zealand work experience.

Qualifications, NZ registration or NZ salary ‘points’

Points will only be awarded for one of the following three criteria:

            (i) having registration in New Zealand with the appropriate occupational body. The quantum of the points granted will depend on how long it would take a New Zealander in terms of study/training/work experience to secure that registration. A doctor therefore would get more points for this criteria than a school teacher (for example minimum six years study versus four years); OR

            (ii) University level study – bachelor’s degree (Level 7) being the minimum (3 points) and PhD attracting the maximum points (6). Honours and masters degrees in the middle at 4 and 5 points respectively; OR

            (iii) the job on offer in New Zealand pays a minimum of 1.5 times the median salary. By the time the policy rolls out in the middle of 2023 that means a salary based on a 40 hour week of around $92,000 a year.

No points for trade or technical qualifications or for Diplomas or Certificates.

At first blush it looks simple. Looks can be deceiving of course. A closer examination reveals plenty of potential risks for applicants.

What does a good candidate look like?

Could be a 55-year-old, BSc holder with a job offer paying NZ$100,000. Under the proposed new system that person scores 3 points (not a typo) for the degree (if it is comparable to a NZ degree)

Or the Doctor with NZ Medical Council registration. S(he) scores 6 points for having registration in NZ that represents greater than or equal to 6 years of study/training.

Or a welder offered $95,000 a year. S(he) scores 3 points for earning 1.5 times the median salary.

What is the pass mark going to be?

Everything suggests a minimum ‘pass mark’ of 3 points and a maximum of 6 (or 9 if the government was stupid enough to make everyone work for three years before being able to apply for residence).

Which cuts out a lot of people if the pass mark is 4. Even more, if it is 5 and only the academically or financially ‘elite’ can get to 6 points.

For many then the risk will be too great.

The whole policy has a bit of a ‘white privilege’ look about it created by a bunch of chardonnay swilling political studies graduates who always seem to think what they see in the mirror in the morning would make the perfect immigrant. A single point change in the pass mark is going to for example cut out all the bachelor degree holders and only reward Honours degree holders. Two points higher and you’ll be needing a Maser degree.

No ‘cap’ on numbers

The greatest issue that I see is that with no annual quota the only way of controlling numbers is by increasing (or decreasing) the points required to gain the Resident Visa. The Minister glossed over this today. This policy will never be open slather.

Part of me thinks the New Zealand government has thrown the gauntlet down for employers who have been saying for years, including pre-Covid, that they are creating too many jobs and there are not enough locals to fill the roles. Not untrue but they always had the opportunity of recruiting overseas till the border closed and most chose not to. Well, the border is now open. Engage the visa process or frankly, stop whining, is I suspect how the government probably sees it. And I agree.

For the migrant this new process will still involve getting a job which usually means a visitor visa to come and find the job, a work visa once the job is secure followed by a resident visa application. Nothing has been put in place that recognises the existence of the ‘chicken and egg’ (no work visa means no job but no job means no work visa) which is the single greatest barrier that exists for skilled migrants wanting to settle in NZ.

Furthermore I would not trust this government (or any Government) to deliver a quick resident visa processing timeline. A year ago this Government promised ‘fast track’ residence to 200,000 people. A year on they have processed half of them. And those RV2021s were the simplest of visa applications to assess and process. And INZ can’t get through them.

If I was a glass-half-full kind of guy I’d conclude the government has tweaked a policy that wasn’t broken but made it, at least on the surface, simple enough that those implementing it should be able to understand. I think the policy looks quicker to process but not sure getting a residence is going to be any easier.

In the NZ or Australia debate, Australia still looks like the better bet for most.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man



Iain MacLeod

Iain has been working as an Immigration Adviser since 1988 and has been running his own practice since 1990. In 1998 he merged his practice with Myer Lipschitz leading to the creation of Protea Pacific Limited which was rebranded in 2008 to IMMagine New Zealand Limited...

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  1. I get the impression that this policy is largely a knee jerk reaction to growing dissatisfaction of the general public with the current government. The nearest intern was put to this task sometime last week.

    Since 2017 this government appears to have instructed INZ to put a hard cap on all long term migrants of about 25000 per annum, irrespective of the needs of industry or even the health system. I suspect INZ have been dragging their heels stretching response times to meet this number.

    This of course doesn’t explain the more than doubling of wait times for citizenship applications during the 2019. Most companies were able to pivot their knowledge based roles to remote working with very little notice (Three cheers for the fibre network), but the bureaucracy (Home Affairs) seemed to flounder.

    Was there substantive change to the family reunification policy? Or do we need to hang on for a kinder government?


    PS: “” doesn’t appear to be be resolving to your website. Should it?

    1. Post

      Hi Marc

      No substantive change to family (but parents are back in business, kind of). Yesterday was about sending a signal to migrants and business – we aren’t nasty, we do love you….but the truth is the proposed new policy is in effect ‘work to residence and no one picked up on that. I have a steady stream of journalists asking me what it all REALLY means this morning. Since 4am

  2. Hello.
    I like your policy and I would like to work in New Zealand, Zealand has always been dream Country but, I am a truck driver so , I do not know if I fall under a good category of the people they need over there

    I will really appreciate if I can get a response.

    1. Post


      As a truck driver there are no residence options. Work visa for three years then a 12 mont stand down (out of NZ) is the best on the table.


  3. Hi Iain,

    Wow, definitely a lot to absorb. We are here in NZ and have (we think) 170 points. Qualification (Bcomm) not yet assessed, English tests not yet done. Can we submit the EOI and provide these at residency application stage, once invited to apply?

    1. Post

      You need the qualificatin assessment done and English tests passed – if you haven’t initiated these already you’ve almost certainly missed the boat.

      1. Thanks Iain – looking ahead then to the 180 points threshold from Jan – I will (hopefully) have 180 points up from 170 in June 2023 after a year of NZ work experience.

        You mention the 18th Jan as being the date from which those who feel they have 180 points can submit their EOI. Is it “from” this date, or “on” this date?

        If from, and the new framework for SMC is only put in place from 1 July for example (mid 2023) then this is a feasible pathway for us. If it is “on” (as in those in the pool on that date ONLY will be selected in 3 week increments) then that blows that pathway out of the water for us. We would then we have to hope it’s a case of third time lucky and that my Bcom degree and 1.5x median wage salary is sufficient when coupled with 3 years of NZ work exp.

        If you could provide any clarity on this nuance of words, I would be grateful.

        Many Thanks

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  4. I want to know about New Zealand job offer and migration.
    Now I live in Myanmar. I want to migrate for work at foreign country.
    I am graduated bachelor of degree science major of chemistry. I have 6 year of working experience in Marketing. How can I do for my future. Our country is becoming poor, the System is flawed, and the economy is poor. So, you know about working in Australia and New Zealand. Please tell me about it and what I can do for my future life.

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  5. Hie I’m a professional chef and I’m not very sure under which category I fall under but I’m really interested in working in New Zealand can you assist as to which steps should be followed

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  6. Hi my name is Emmanuel Victor
    I am a pipe fitter by profession l really love new Zealand. it is my dream country and I will love to come work and develop the country
    I will appreciate if my request is granted

  7. Hello Iain,

    Interesting post.

    We live outside of NZ, having 170 points not including the bonus points from the skilled assessment (absolute skills shortage). If I add bonus points for work experience in an area of absolute skills shortage, points will be raised to 185. Getting the skill assessed by Engineers NZ appears to be tedious process, takes long time to get the outcome and expensive too.

    As there is a speculation of new changes being implemented in July 2023, would you recommend to submit EOI with bonus points before 21st Jun? Or submit the EOI with just 170 points to be picked up in future draws if cut off goes down? Can I have some guidance on it? Would the cut off go down?

    1. Post

      Hello Krrish
      There is no indication from the government that they intend dropping the points required for pool selection before they role out the new points system. So even if you do have 175 points (which is possible but extremely rare and difficult to achieve) I doubt it is going to be enough

  8. Hi Iain

    I am an HR professional who has over 22 years of experience in the HR field. Currently working as a Snr. General Manager HR and overlooking more than 40000 employees across the SL/India/Bangladesh and Haiti.

    I am happy to migrate to NZ with a resident visa. I am 47 years old and have a Bachelor’s degree I am reading for an MBA in HR at the University of Bedfordshire in the UK.

    I am married and have two kids.

    How can I apply for a residence visa with a Work visa category?

    1. Post

      Hi Kelum

      You sound like what NZ is looking for. I suggest as a starting point is that you complete one of our (free) preliminary evaluations. This provides us with the evidence we need to rule in our rule out particular strategies based on eligibility. I am pretty confident my feedback will be positive. Assuming it is we will then invite you to have a consultation with you.

      Here is the link:



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