The April 2017 NZ immigration visa changes

For a long time, record levels of immigration to New Zealand have been seen as an indication of the strength of our economy. However, the New Zealand Government is worried that continuing to allow too many migrants to enter the country could put undue pressure on public services and infrastructure.

So, in April 2017, the Government announced changes to the rules for people applying for Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) immigration visas – a points-based system for people who want to work and live here. In October last year, the Government had already increased the automatic selection mark for applicants under the SMC from 140 points to 160.

What’s the aim with the recent changes to immigration visas?

The Government hopes that with the recent adjustments to the skilled migrant visa points system they will be better able to manage the influx and quality of migrants coming to New Zealand – and be able to do so in such a way so as to improve the contribution that temporary and permanent migrants make to the country’s labour market, without stifling immigration too much and hurting the economy in the long run.

From when do the new immigration rules apply?

The new changes to the rules for the skilled migrant visa will take effect as from Monday, 14 August 2017.

If you do not comply with the new rules and you want to apply for a skilled migrant immigration visa you will need to lodge your applications before Monday, 14 August, otherwise, you will be subject to all of the new rules.

Contact your Auckland immigration lawyer as soon as possible to help you with your application.

The new immigration rules in a nutshell

One of the main changes is the introduction of two new remuneration thresholds, as follows:

  • If an applicant earns less than the median New Zealand income of $48,859, they won’t get any points – even if their job was previously classified as ‘skilled’. In other words, under the new rules, applicants with jobs at Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) skill levels 1, 2 or 3 will now only be awarded points for their employment if they can prove they are paid $48,859 or more per year.
  • A migrant who earns more than $73,299 a year will now also get points, even if their work was not previously classified as ‘skilled’. In other words, people who are not currently considered to be in skilled employment because their job is not in an ANZSCO skill level 1, 2 or 3, may now be able to claim points for their job if they are earning $73,299 or more per year.

Migrants will also be able to get extra points for their visa application if they earn more than $97,718 a year. There are also more points available for work experience, recognised post-graduate qualifications, and people aged between 30 and 39.

However, migrants will no longer get points for qualifications in areas simply because there is a skills shortage, or for experience and qualifications enabling them to find work in identified future growth areas like ICT, or for having close family already in New Zealand.
The qualifications of partners of skilled migrants will also only be awarded points if these are a recognised Bachelor’s degree or higher, or a recognised post-graduate qualification.

What about holders of temporary ‘essential skill’ visas?

The same income thresholds for the skilled migrant visa will apply. In other words, someone eligible for a temporary ‘essential skills’ work visa who earns less than the median income can still work here, but only for a maximum of three years, before they have to submit a new application.

It will also be harder for the families of temporary skilled migrants to enter New Zealand. At the moment, the partners and children of such visa holders can get open work visas and student visas, but under the new rules partners and children will only be able to enter the country as visitors and they will only be able to get a work visa if they meet the new requirements themselves.

Also, the visas of seasonal workers will now be limited to the length of their work only – and no longer 12 months.

Help with your immigration visa

New Zealand immigration legislation is complicated – and the rules change constantly in response to the changing needs of the country’s labour market. The key with any application for immigration to New Zealand lies in applying for the right visa category for your unique situation and in presenting your application properly to Immigration New Zealand. This is where your Auckland immigration lawyer can be an immense help – our immigration lawyers understand the finer details and rules of New Zealand immigration law and can provide you with the best possible immigration help.

For more information about the recent rule change and to start your immigration application before the new rules come into effect on 14 August 2017, please contact the friendly Auckland immigration lawyers and consultants at Auckland law firm Quay Law.