Simplified path to residency for skilled workers21 Jun 2023

News from the Beehive:
The Government is making changes to the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) as part of the immigration rebalance, to help businesses attract workers to fill skill shortages, Minister of Immigration Michael Wood announced.

• No cap on highly skilled workers
• New six-point system to give certainty to migrants on their eligibility
• Clearer criteria and faster pathway to residence for highly skilled people
• Extension of Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) to five years and introduction of five-year maximum continuous stay AEWV

“We know many industries are calling for workers as the global labour shortage bites. The new skilled migrant settings will help attract and retain skilled migrants to fill medium-to-long-term skills needs that would take time to fill by workers already in New Zealand,” Michael Wood said.

“The changes announced today to ensure there is no cap on skilled migrants removes an artificial constraint in the old system that set an indicative number of residence places available each year and prevented skilled migrants settling in New Zealand even when there was a demonstrable need.

“From early October, a simplified points system will be introduced to set a clear skills threshold based on New Zealand occupational registration, recognised qualifications, or income.

“Highly skilled people will have a faster route to residence, and others will have a clear route to residence if they work for a period in New Zealand. The clear requirements will provide temporary workers with clarity about their status, addressing a long-standing issue where some people with no pathway to residence were given false hope.

“The Government has heard from businesses that giving certainty that skilled migrants and their families will be able to gain residence in New Zealand will be a big draw card for attracting skilled workers.

“The new SMC complements other pathways to residence, such as the Green List, which is a narrower, occupation-specific pathway for those working in specified nationally significant and globally in-demand roles.

“This, along with simpler settings, means Immigration New Zealand will be able to process more applications faster.

“There will also be an extension to the maximum duration of an Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) from three to five years from November, to align with the introduction of a five-year maximum continuous stay on an AEWV for people who are not on a pathway to residence. The duration is longer than the three years initially indicated, in response to feedback from businesses.

“The AEWV is New Zealand’s main temporary work visa, which gives businesses access to skills to plug short-term gaps. Providing a five-year maximum continuous stay means people who don’t qualify for a pathway to residence will have clarity about how long they can work and stay in New Zealand and provides longer term certainty for business.

“We recognise the important role the immigration system plays in our nation’s economic future. We are committed to working with businesses to ensure we are striking the right balance”, Michael Wood said.


• All migrants applying for the SMC will have to have a job, or a job offer in New Zealand with an accredited employer, and be paid at least the median wage (applicants in ANZSCO skill level 4 or 5 roles must be paid at least 1.5 time the median wage)
• Applicants must have at least 6 points to be eligible. This can be made up from:
o 3 to 6 points based on either New Zealand occupational registration, recognised qualifications, or income; and
o 1 point per year of work in New Zealand in a skilled job, up to a maximum of 3 points.
• Applicants can claim points from the skill category (either New Zealand occupational registration, qualifications, or income) that offers them the most points. The more skill points a person can claim, the shorter the period of skilled work in New Zealand applicants will need to complete before they can apply for residence. Applicants cannot combine points from multiple skill categories to make up more points.
• Applicants will need to meet the same age, English language, health, and character requirements as the previous settings. People already in New Zealand or arriving soon can start earning points for experience to count towards the future Skilled Migrant Category settings ahead of the new settings opening.