Salary thresholds for Skilled Migrant Residence and Essential Skills Work Visas have increased as from 15 January 2018.

In August 2017, INZ made changes to the Skilled Migrant Category and Essential Skills Work Visas were implemented, aimed to:

  • ensure New Zealand is attracting migrants who bring the most economic benefits to New Zealand and to improve the skill composition of people gaining residence under the Skilled Migrant Category
  • strike the right balance between ensuring New Zealanders are at the front of the queue for jobs while preserving access to the temporary migrant skills necessary for New Zealand’s continued economic growth.

These changes included introducing salary thresholds to both categories, with the aim of improving the assessment of skill and value to New Zealand.

From 15 January 2018, the following changes will occur in the Skilled Migrant Category:

Threshold Prior to 15 January From 15 January
Threshold for skilled employment in an occupation at ANZSCO 1-3 $23.49 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary) $24.29 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary)
Threshold for skilled employment in an occupation at ANZSCO 4-5, or which is not included in ANZSCO $35.24 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary) $36.44 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary)
Threshold to earn bonus points $46.98 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary) $48.58 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary)

From 15 January 2018, the following changes will occur in Essential Skills work visa category:

Threshold Prior to 15 January From 15 January
Threshold for mid-skilled employment in an occupation at ANZSCO 1-3 $19.97 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary) $20.65 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary)
Threshold for higher skilled employment in any occupation (including those at ANZSCO 4-5) $35.24 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary) $36.44 per hour or above (or the equivalent annual salary)

INZ have provided the following FAQ to explain why these changes have been made and how they may affect a person, now or in the future

Why are these changes occurring now?

The thresholds are indexed against the New Zealand median income. As previously announced, salary requirements are to be updated at the end of each calendar year based on New Zealand income data (which is released in September). This year the changes have been delayed until January to give employers and migrants enough time to adjust to the new thresholds.


What if I am a current Essential Skills work visa holder and my job does not meet the new threshold? What if I’m an employer and one of my staff hold a current visa but their wage does not meet the new threshold?

Visas that people already hold will not be affected. Changes to the income thresholds will not affect the duration or conditions of visas that have already been granted.

A new application made on or after 15 January will be assessed against the new threshold. This may mean the conditions or visa duration of the next visa could be different.  For example a chef paid $20 an hour would currently be considered mid-skilled, as the occupation is ANZSCO level 2 and the pay is above the existing threshold of $19.97. However if he applied for a further visa after 15 January he would be considered low skilled, unless his pay increased to above the new threshold of $20.65.


What if I apply or applied for a work visa under Essential Skills before 15 January 2018, but my application is not decided by then?  Will Immigration New Zealand assess my skill level based on the old thresholds or the new ones?

If your application was received by INZ before 15 January 2018, the old thresholds will be used to assess your application and determine your visa application.


If I am an employer who has already advertised and prepared to support an Essential Skills work visa, but the person cannot get his application in before 15 January 2018, what happens then?

If an application is received and accepted after 15 January 2018, the new thresholds will apply, even if (for example) the employment agreement has been signed prior to 15 January 2018.


What happens if I was invited to apply for the Skilled Migrant Category under the old thresholds?

The salary thresholds against which you will be assessed are the thresholds in place on the date your expression of interest (EOI) was selected from the Pool, if that selection results in an invitation to apply.  For example, if your EOI was selected on 10 January 2018 and you were invited to apply on 20 January 2018, the old salary thresholds will apply, even though you weren’t invited to apply until after the new thresholds were introduced.

Salary thresholds will continue to be reviewed annually in November/December once the annual national salary statistics have been published. INZ’s salary thresholds are based upon the national average salary. As salaries continue to trend upwards it is forecast that the salary threshold will in turn follow the same trend.

When planning a future residence or work visa application consideration should be given to the potential for such movements in salary threshold which may affect your eligibility to apply or the conditions of the visa issued.

We strongly recommend seeking the advice of a suitably experienced and qualified licensed immigration professional for your immigration requirements.

Significant and wide ranging changes to the skilled migrant category (SMC) have been announced and are due to become effective from August.

The NZ Government has announced a range of changes for what it says are “designed to better manage immigration and improve the labour market contribution of temporary and permanent migration.”

Two wage thresholds are being introduced for SMC residence applicants which will be used to determine whether employment is skilled for the purpose of granting points for any employment role. An equally significant change is that points for work experience will be increased but only work experience which is assessed as “skilled” can be relied upon. SMC points for age will increase for applicants aged 30-39 as the Government changes its focus from younger, recently graduated, applicants, to those who have more work experience and who can contribute more quickly and constructively to the workforce. Points will no longer be available for qualifications in areas of absolute skills shortage, future growth areas and for having close family living in New Zealand.

Those who will benefit from these changes include people:

  • Whose jobs are not currently recognised as being skilled and cannot currently rely on these jobs for a SMC residence application. The proposed changes will allow these jobs to be assessed as being skilled if they are paid at or above $73,299 per year (or $35.24 per hour).
  • Whose income is $97,719 per year (or $46.98 per hour) will be eligible for 20 bonus points.
  • Who are aged from 30 to 39 will be awarded 30 points for their age
  • Who have longer work experience and this is experience is in skilled roles
  • Who have recognised higher level qualifications at level 9 or 10 (Master’s degrees or Doctorates) who will be awarded 70 points.

Who will be disadvantaged by the policy changes?

  • People whose jobs are currently considered skilled but who are paid less than $48,859 per year (or $23.49 per hour) will not be able to claim points for skilled employment. This new wage threshold will affect many occupations but particularly Restaurant Managers, Chefs, Retail Managers and ICT Technicians which are the most popular occupations under the current SMC policy.
  • Younger people and recent graduates will be disadvantaged as they will unlikely be able to claim points for skilled work experience

It has yet to be confirmed but it is expected that the proposed changes will be introduced in mid August 2017. The last Expression of Interest (EOI) selection draw may therefore be on the 2nd or the 16th of August. It is our understanding that EOIs selected before the changes are implemented will have their residence applications processed under the current SMC policy. NB: an EOI cannot proceed until the principal applicant has met the English language requirement.

Anyone who is considering a SMC residence application should urgently seek professional advice from a Pathways Licensed Immigration Adviser to determine if they are eligible to apply for residence now and before the proposed policy changes are introduced.

Immigration New Zealand announced major changes to the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) to take effect from 12 October.

These changes affect many prospective migrants and are part of an overall strategy to reduce, by 5,000 per year, the number of people who are granted New Zealand residence. The new planning range is for 85,000 to 95,000 people to obtain residence over the next two years of whom 50,500 to 57,500 people will obtain residence from the SMC and business categories.

Places under the SMC have been in very high demand and there have been concerns raised at the increasing number of places taken up by people with relatively low level qualifications and employment roles. The policy changes increase the points threshold required for applicants to become eligible to apply for SMC residence and implement more robust English language requirements, and how these are to be met.

Summary of key changes

  • Minimum points required for EOI selection has been increased from 140 to 160 and only EOI’s scoring 160 points or more will be selected for the foreseeable future. Previously applicants scoring 100 points, including points for skilled employment, were able to be selected.
  • New English Language evidence requirements;
    • citizenship of Canada, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom or the United States of America provided the applicant has spent at least five years in work or education in one or more of those countries or Australia or New Zealand; or
    • a recognised qualification comparable to a New Zealand level 7 bachelor’s degree and gained in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom or the United States of America as a result of study undertaken for at least two academic years in one or more of those countries; or
    • a recognised qualification comparable to a New Zealand qualification at level 8 or above and gained in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom or the United States of America as a result of study undertaken for at least one academic year in one or more of those countries; otherwise
    • IELTS 6.5 mandatory requirement

Previously there was a wider range of options to evidence an applicant’s English language including working in skilled employment in New Zealand for one year. This option is no longer available and applicants who do not otherwise meet one of the above requirements must pass the IELTS test. Additional English test options will also be introduced from 21 November.

Applicants who already have Skilled Migrant Category residence applications under process or received their residence invitation before 12 October, and are yet to submit their application, will not be affected by the changes.

For many prospective applicants the main challenge will be to achieve the required 160 points for their EOI to be selected and in this regard the 30 bonus points available for employment outside of Auckland are likely to prove pivotal. The new English language requirement may also prove a difficult hurdle for many applicants.

More policy changes are expected in November to further fine tune the SMC policy. It is possible these changes may include the introduction of additional points criteria to recognise applicants in high level employment roles who would otherwise not be able to achieve the 160 points. It is also possible changes may be made to employment roles such as retail and restaurant manager, and chef, which Immigration New Zealand have identified as being “over-weighted” in SMC statistics.

Immigration policy changes always result in a great deal of uncertainty and misinformation and obtaining professional advice from a Licensed Immigration Adviser is timely and appropriate in this situation.

Immigration New Zealand announced major changes today to the parent category which have seen the category put on hold and the annual quota slashed by more than 50% for the next 2 years.

The parent category is just one residence category that makes up INZ’s New Zealand Residence Programme (NZRP). The NZRP sets a planning range for the target number of residence visas to be issued over a 2 year period. A recent review has determined that the target range for the next 2 years should be lowered from 90-100,00 down to 85-95,000. This change is particularly reflective in those areas where there is a fixed annual quota or cap such as the parent category.

The key changes to the parent category include:

  1. The parent residence category has been temporarily closed from today and Immigration New Zealand will not make any new selections from the parent category Expression of Interest (EOI) pool for at least the next 2 years.  Unfortunately this means that your parent’s EOI will not be selected for the foreseeable future.
  2. Immigration New Zealand have also announced a reduction in the number of places available under the family capped category from 5,500 to 2,000 people per year with the result that it is expected to take until July 2018 to clear existing lodged parent residence applications.
  3. If your parents have already received an invitation to apply for residence, they can (and should) still complete and lodge their application within the 4 months allowed – however these applications are unlikely to be assessed until after July 2018.
  4. INZ are also undertaking a further review of the parent category and may be changing the criteria for selection in the future meaning there can be no guarantee that people who have submitted an EOI will be invited to apply for residence in the future.

If you have any questions regarding an application under process, an EOI submitted or are thinking about making a new application please seek professional advise from a suitably qualified and experienced licensed immigration adviser.

INZ have announced major visa changes for South African citizens wishing to travel to New Zealand as visitors. From 21 November 2016 South African’s will no longer be eligible to enter “Visa-free” and will be required to apply for a visitor visa before travelling.

These changes are being made as a result of an increase in the number of South African nationals who have been refused entry at the New Zealand border in comparison to other visa waiver countries as they have not been deemed as ‘genuine visitors”.

Currently, people from South Africa do not need to apply for a visitor visa before travelling to New Zealand, with genuine visitors being granted a visitor visa on arrival. As a result of the change all visitors from South Africa will need to obtain a visa before travelling to New Zealand.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) General Manager Peter Elms says “We are committed to creating an immigration system that actively welcomes and encourages legitimate visitors to New Zealand, but at the same time is able to prevent those who do not meet immigration requirements.”

“These changes bring New Zealand into line with countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. People who have booked tickets prior to today’s announcement for travel on or after the 21 November should visit the Immigration website to find out how to apply for their visa.”

INZ recommends that applicants apply for a visitor visa about six weeks in advance of their intended travel dates. Visit the Immigration New Zealand website to view the visa criteria > https://goo.gl/9wlrL5

It is highly advisable for South African citizens considering a visit to New Zealand to seek professional advice well in advance of their visit to give their application the best possible chance of success.

We are very pleased to announce our Wellington Office is open for business. Pathways now have two office locations being our head office in Hamilton and now Wellington.

Experienced Pathways adviser Charlotte Summers has relocated from Hamilton to Wellington and she is joined by our newest adviser Tim Howard at our offices located on Level 3 50 Manners Street in the heart of Wellingtons CBD.

The Wellington presence extends our outreach to provide a localised professional immigration advisory service in the capital city and this team will service clients for the lower North Island (Manawatu, Wanganui, Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa and Wellington) and the South Island.

If you are in the lower North Island or South island and have any immigration questions or requirements please contact the Pathways Wellington team for immediate assistance 04 280 2255.

INZ has recently announced that they will be increasing their fees and introducing a new immigration levy, these will take effect on 7 December 2015.

The increase follows from a review of immigration charges presented to cabinet and will see an overall rise of 8.3%.The last review took place in 2012 and at which time fees were increased by 16.7% overall. Most of the additional funding is directly linked to earlier budget decisions to increase spending to enhance New Zealand’s border security and support the current Vision 2015 programme. This funding will support the government’s objectives to fill skill gaps, attract investment, grow export education and reduce migrant exploitation.

The changes include an increase to application fees and the introduction of a migration levy for most temporary visas as well as a change in how the levy for residence visas is applied.

The levy will be charged upon application and one levy fee will be payable per application. The cost of the levy varies depending upon the visa type being applied for with temporary visa levy’s ranging from $10 up to $38. Residence levy’s range from $280 to $580 and they replace the migrant levy that is currently only paid upon the approval in principle of the application.

The current migrant levy is $310 per applicant over the age of 5, up to an application maximum of $1240 regardless of numbers of family members, so for some families there may actually be a cost saving. However given that the levy is paid upfront regardless of the outcome of the application INZ will now be collecting levy’s from all applications, therefore generating significant additional revenue from those applications that are declined each year.

  • A family of 4 applying under the skilled migrant category would previously have paid $1810 application fee and $1240 in migrant levy’s a total of $3050, they will now pay $1890 application fee and immigration levy of $580 a total of $2470 a saving of $580, which covers the cost of the EOI which has been increased to $530.
  • A single person applying for residence under SMC will be paying an additional $370.
  • A couple will see a small increase of $60.

Even with the increases New Zealand remains very competitively priced when comparing with some of the main competing migration destinations such as Australia. A review of Australian immigration fees shows their costs more than double those in New Zealand for many visa types. So we can certainly be assured that the price increase will do little to influence a persons decision to migrate here or not and unlikely to deter the skilled migrants the country is seeking.

The need to increase fees to provide the additional funding required to enhance services we understand and its inevitable that prices do rise but what we can’t understand is why complicate matters and charge two separate fees, the application fee and the levy? If the fees are being paid upfront regardless of application outcome surely it would be simpler for all concerned to wrap everything into one fee. Somewhere along the line there is going to be extra administration for anyone involved to record separate transactions.

Given the increase in the absolute fixed cost of making a residence application the cost of failure has also significantly increased. Not that anyone enters into a process thinking of failure but seeking professional advice from a licensed immigration adviser before starting the immigration process will be extremely beneficial and give you added peace of mind before parting with your hard earned cash.

Whilst there is no requirement for a migrant to use the services of an immigration adviser they can benefit significantly from the advice and expertise of an experienced and reputable adviser.

The first and most reliable way to choose an adviser is by referral from someone who has previously used and recommended the adviser. Approximately 80% of Pathways new clients are referred to us.

Advisers must be licensed and maintain a current license (renewed annual) from the Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA). The IAA website maintains a searchable list of advisers. The website can be used to find an adviser and/or verify that the person you are thinking of engaging with is suitably licensed and eligible to represent you.

Each adviser has their own unique 9 digit license number. The first 4 numbers signify the year that the adviser first became licensed, this therefore becomes an immediate reference to the level of experience that person has. As licensing was introduced in 2008 the most experienced advisers numbers will begin with 2008 as do 3 of the advisers at Pathways.

Given the level of experience can be indicated by the adviser’s license number it should also be established the size of the organisation that the adviser works for and the depth of experience within the company. A relatively new adviser maybe working in a company of 5+ advisers where there is significant combined experience and structured supervision and governance. In addition a robust company infrastructure will ensure that an advisers business can continue to function seamlessly if the adviser is absent. There should always be someone who can be contacted and who is knowledgeable about your application. At Pathways we have 11 advisers who combined have over 80 years of New Zealand immigration experience as well as experienced support staff.

Look beyond the website – in this day and age it is very easy to create a great website that can create the impression of professionalism and experience. It’s really important to dig under the surface and establish just how experienced the person is, not only general experience but have they got the actual relevant experience to understand and assist with your specific requirements.

Is the adviser a member of a credible professional industry body – NZAMI (New Zealand Association of Migration and Investment) is the main professional body an adviser is most likely to be a member of.

The public profile of the adviser within the industry. Are they involved with industry reference groups?
Pathways director Richard Howard is regularly invited to participate on industry reference groups –he is currently on the panel overseeing the development of the new adviser qualification and regularly meets with INZ senior executives to provide industry feedback.

Do they present at industry seminars?
Several of Pathways advisers have been invited to present at NZAMI adviser professional development seminars, most recently Anthony Callaghan presented on deportation liability for residents convicted of offences after residence granted, and Charlotte Summers presented on Domestic Violence Matters and Immigration Law.

Ultimately once you’ve established that the person has the credentials to manage your requirements do you think you can work with them? You may be working with that person for a number of months so above all you have to feel confident that you can trust each other and work together as a team to achieve your goal.