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Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa - New

New Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa (6-point-threshold)

The Skilled Migrant Category resident visa has been recently revamped to offer a more streamlined, skilled-focused processing.

Whereas some requirements remain unchanged, like age, health, character, English proficiency, the rest have been altered to match the immigration rebalance policy announced by the Government.

The highlights are set out below. For your convenience, the old system description has been kept on this page with the relevant parts marked as ‘archived’.

Unlimited number of applicants

  • The new Skilled Migrant Category now has no cap on the number of migrants who can qualify.

Skilled job offer

  • It is now mandatory to have an offer of skilled employment (or to be already working in such employment) with an accredited employer. The job must pay at least the median wage (currently $29.66/hour with a minimum of 30 hours worked per week) for ANZSCO level 1 to 3 occupations, or $44.49/hour for levels 4-5. The offer must be either for a permanent contract, or for a fixed-term one for at least 12 months.

New 6-point system

  • You can add points gained for either
    • a recognised qualification (with a PhD qualifying for 6, MA – 5, BA Hons for 4, BA – 3 points, etc.), or
    • occupational registration (you can get 6 points for a registration which required at least 6 years of training to be gained, 5 points for 5 years of training, etc.), or
    • higher income (with 3x median wage qualifying for 6 points, 2x median wage – for 4 points, 1.5x median wage – for 3 points).
  • and for skilled work experience in New Zealand (from 1 to 3 points for 1 to 3 years of experience accordingly).

What is unchanged

  • English language requirement (results of a major test of English, e.g., IELTS 6.5, or an eligible qualification studied in one of the listed English-speaking countries)
  • Health requirements
  • Character requirements
  • The cut-off age (55 or under)

Please refer to the SMC infographics provided by Immigration New Zealand for more detail.

Who is a New Zealand Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa for?

The purpose of the Skilled Migrant Category Resident visa is to attract migrants who

  • possess the skills the country is short of,
  • are able to transfer these skills to New Zealand,
  • can bring both economic and social benefit into the country, and
  • can easily settle here.

Amazing as it may seem, New Zealand as we know it and which you may already be contemplating to call your home, needs you more than you may be aware of. In fact, it is immigration which makes it the vibrant, multi-cultural place a lot of people fall in love with.

Recognising the importance of bringing ‘new blood’ into the economy, the Government's agenda includes steps to strengthen New Zealand economic prospects. To this end, they encourage the direct contribution of migration to the workforce and economy.

What about my family, can I use the same application for them?

Yes, some good news here - your partner and dependent children can be included in your Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa application. 

They do not have to contribute capacity building points (that is, recognised qualification and/or skilled employment experience), but do have to meet character and health standards, as well as English language proficiency level for secondary applicants.


[Archived information based on previous Immigration Instructions]:

How to check if you are eligible?

Skilled Migrant resident visa uses a system based on points, which can be calculated taking into account all the relevant details. 

Employment is the key

This visa is tailored for those in skilled employment. It is important to remember, however, that you cannot be self-employed to qualify.

Whereas the mere maths of adding up the points may be quite straightforward, it is the method of calculation that everybody makes so much fuss about. It is not unusual for applicants and immigration officers to lock horns explaining why a qualification is recognised or work experience is necessarily to be considered skilled.


Whilst you can find most information in the summary below and, in more detail, in the INZ Operational Manual, there is a better way. To know beyond a shadow of doubt whether you are eligible, book a free 30-minute consultation with our immigration expert. 

Getting a New Zealand Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) Resident Visa is a two-stage process. 

Stage 1

Expression of Interest (EOI) is entered into the pool, but the chances to progress to the next stage are slim unless

  • all necessary health and character requirements are met.
    We would recommend you to bear in mind that the health standards are much higher compared to, for example, work visas, and some serious medical conditions will not make a waiver possible. Likewise, considerably harsher character requirements are imposed on those applicants for residence class visas who may be seeking, for example, a character waiver, or may fall under the description of section 15 or 16 of the Immigration Act 2009.
  • the minimum standard of English is confirmed to have been achieved.
    For the purpose of Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa, the minimum standard of English to be met is, for example, a 6.5 overall band IELTS score in either Academic or General module unless the principal applicant holds the citizenship of one of the English-speaking countries and has spent considerable time in employment there, or has gained a level 7 or level 8 qualification comparable to that of New Zealand with a minimum time spent while studying. Other major testing systems results, like TOEFL iBT, PTE Academic and others, are also acceptable.
  • at least 100 points are claimed for employability and capacity building factors, including either points for recognised qualification or skilled work experience. And, finally,
  • the applicant is 55 years of age or younger at the time they submit an EOI.

Stage 2

  • In the next stage, applications are selected from the pool if the total number of points is 180 or higher. Unselected EOIs remain in the pool for 6 months before removal.
  • Further on, the immigration officer considers the information in the EOI credible, and health and character issues unlikely.
  • After initial verification, a successful applicant will then receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA).
  • To be considered further, the subsequent application has to be made within 4 months of the ITA's date. Only ITAs dated between 1 November 2019 and 15 April 2020 inclusive can get an exception. The time frame there is 10 months.
  • After full verification the application is assessed and, subsequently, approved, deferred or declined.

SMC candidates are often caught out by minor details. Here are some essentials of how the points are calculated and what to make note of.

Points collection category and useful hints

- Skilled employment

To qualify for points for Skilled Migrant Category  (SMC) Visa, the employment should be genuine, ongoing and sustainable, full-time (at least 30 hours, not including overtime); it should pay salary (not based on commission or retainer fee).

- Additional points for skilled employment

If the employment is in an area of absolute skills shortage, if it is outside the Auckland region, if the remuneration is high.

- Skilled Work Experience

  • With a few exceptions, points may be claimed if skilled work experience was in an ANZSCO skill level 1,2,3 occupation, the work done substantially matched the description for that occupation, and the applicant could provide sufficient evidence of being suitably qualified to do that work.
  • If the above is not the case but the person who is applying qualifies for points for skilled employment and the remuneration is set at a high level, the skilled work experience may still be taken into consideration. Many people turn a blind eye on a crucial requirement that they have to be suitably qualified before their work experience is considered ‘skilled’. The skilled work experience must be obtained lawfully.
  • Another possible caveat is that when an occupation is on a Long Term Shortage Skill List, the qualification bar there is usually set higher compared to ANZSCO, so the former has priority.
  • Skilled Work Experience must have been gained in a labour market which is comparable to New Zealand except when:
    - A skilled employment offer, or a skilled employment, is available, or
    - The employment in an area of absolute skills shortage (on a Long Term Shortage Skill List).
  • In these cases above, it is immaterial where the work experience was gained.

- Bonus points for Skilled Work Experience

  • may be granted if the experience is in an area of absolute skills shortage, or
  • if it was gained in New Zealand.

- Relationship between Skilled Work Experience and Employment Offer

Contrary to a popular opinion, Skilled Work Experience does not necessarily have to be in the same occupation as the applicant’s job offer. However, in such case it must be one at skills level 1, 2 or 3 on the ANZSCO list.

Points may be also claimed for work experience which was in a lower-skilled occupation (or it is listed as an exception in Appendix 7 of the Immigration Instructions) if 


  • it was in the same occupation as the offer of employment and the applicant was suitably qualified by training or experience before starting to gain this experience, and
  • the applicant qualifies for point for skilled employment.


- Can secondary applicants claim points for skilled employment in New Zealand or recognised qualification?

Yes, but only if the secondary applicant meets the English language requirements for principal applicants.

- Recognised qualification

There is no need to provide an International Qualification Assessment (IQA) by NZQA if your qualification is exempt (that is, included in the List of Qualifications Exempt from Assessment).

Points will not be awarded if the principal applicant claiming points was either unlawfully in the country where the study took place, or did not have a proper authority to do such study whereas it was required.

- Bonus points for recognised qualification

  • May be claimed for New Zealand qualifications at level 7,8,9,10 if studied full-time.
  • May be claimed for partners’ New Zealand qualifications at level 7,8,9,10.

- A partner is eligible to claim points for his or her qualification

  • If the minimum requirements for partnership are met,
  • the couple have been living together for longer than 12 months, and
  • the partner is included in the application and meets the English language proficiency standard on a par with the principal applicant.

What are you entitled to if you have a Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa?

You can

  • live and work in New Zealand indefinitely,
  • study in New Zealand as a domestic student and enjoy preferential fee policy,
  • use most publicly funded services (for example, health care),
  • make your voice heard in New Zealand political life, i.e. you can vote in elections,
  • after 2 years apply for a permanent resident visa to have absolute freedom of travelling (provided you have shown your close ties with the country, for example, by spending the required amount of time during that period, have become a resident for tax purposes, and through some other ways), ...

... to name but a few.

If you feel like joining a most vibrant community of professionals and indulge in an unsurpassed lifestyle of the perfect work-life balance, it is highly advisable to seek professional guidance of experienced professionals. 

Skilled migrant category resident visa warrants particular attention to details for good reasons. Firstly, the stakes are high and, secondly, the standards to meet are much tougher in comparison with temporary visas. An application under normal circumstances takes about 18-24 months to process. At the same time, wrongfully prepared paperwork may cause delays or the decline of the application. There is, however, a way to bypass disheartening rejections over minuscule flaws. In fact, what could be worse than the feeling of the ground shifting under your feet?

Book your free 15-minute consultation session now and let our team of experts guide you on this treacherous path. We will look into the tiniest details of your situation and prepare for a smooth launch of your application.

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Our adviser and director has been in the same boat with most of our valued clients who come to seek his counsel. He came to New Zealand as a migrant in 2002 and has been calling it home since then. It is our pleasure to serve your needs and provide professional immigration advisor services to help your dreams come true.
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