New Zealand’s popularity as a destination for tourists and migrants has soared in recent times. There are a number of different avenues by which people can enter the country. This includes temporary and permanent visas across a number of categories, such as visitor, partnership and work.

The Skilled Migrant Category (“SMC”) is a points-based residence policy which enables overseas people to obtain residence in New Zealand. It is based on a number of criteria focussed around a potential migrant’s skills, qualifications, and ability to fill job vacancies in New Zealand that are considered “skilled”.  A complete list of skilled occupations can be found on the Immigration New Zealand websitetogether with the corresponding qualification requirements.

There are three key stages in the Skilled Migrant Visa process:

  • First, an applicant must submit an Expression of Interest.
  • Second, if that Expression of Interest meets the points threshold, then the applicant will be invited to apply to Immigration New Zealand for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category.
  • Third, if the applicant provides all of the relevant documentation and passes the required police and health checks, then the application will be approved in principle.  Following this, the visa will be granted subject to meeting certain requirements, such as submitting a valid passport and paying the migrant levy.

In October 2016, the government increased the points threshold in the SMC from 140 points to 160 points, as volumes of applications continue to increase.  Since the result of the United States Presidential Election interest has reportedly increased even further, though the points threshold has not yet been increased again.   Whilst these changes have made it more challenging for an individual to gain residence under the SMC, the New Zealand government has by no means built a wall to keep immigrants out.

As the key to success is to reach 160 on the point scale, an applicant’s trump card is to either have confirmed employment, or an offer of employment in New Zealand, which award 60 and 50 points respectively. Additionally, an applicant can score significantly more points if they have a New Zealand recognised qualification and relevant work experience in a comparable labour market, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Singapore, to name a few.

Points can also be scored for age, employment or offer of employment in an area outside of Auckland, having a skilled partner and skills and experience in an area of skill shortage to New Zealand. Full details of the SMC point system can be found under the “Expression of Interest Guide” form on the Immigration New Zealand website.

If you are thinking about immigrating to New Zealand, or would like further information or advice on New Zealand’s immigration laws, please contact Jamie Nunns on jamie.nunns@morrisonkent.com or04 495 8912, or Shehan Gunatunga on shehan.gunatunga@morrisonkent.com or 04 495 8923.

Further information can be found here: