Skilled Migrant Visa – The Main Pathway to Residence

New Zealand follows a points-based system to attract skilled professionals from all over the world. Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) is the most common pathway to residence in NZ.

The SMC process begins with submitting an online Expression of Interest. In your EOI you claim points for your qualifications, work experience, age and more. Every fortnight Immigration New Zealand selects the highest scoring EOIs to invite to apply.

What is a Skilled Migrant?

Immigration New Zealand uses the point-tested skilled migration visa program to invite people who can offer the most to New Zealand to migrate permanently to the country. The first stage is lodging an expression of interest (EOI) and getting a positive skills assessment. The EOI is then used by immigration officials to determine whether you are eligible for an invitation to apply. You can claim points for your qualifications, work experience and occupation in a qualified occupation as listed on the Skilled Occupation List (SOL) or the Consolidated Sponsor Occupation List (CSOL). You also need to meet health, character and English language requirements.

The CSOL and SOL change from time to time to reflect the shifting labour market needs of New Zealand. You can also apply for a Skilled Nominated Visa (subclass 190) which requires sponsorship by a New Zealand employer or state or territory government. The CSOL and SOL are the basis for deciding who receives an invitation to apply for a skilled migration visa NZ.

How do I apply for a Skilled Migrant Visa?

The most common visa for people who want to work in New Zealand is the Essential Skills Work Visa (ESWV). To obtain this, you must have a full time job offer from an Accredited NZ Employer and hold qualifications that are on the List of Skills Shortage Occupations. You also need to meet health, character and English language requirements.

The next option is the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC). This is a complex points-based residence policy that rewards applicants for their age, qualifications, work experience and other factors. Each EOI is scored and then placed into a pool. Every fortnight Immigration New Zealand selects EOIs from the pool and invites them to apply for a residence visa.

To be successful in the SMC, you need to claim as many points as possible and have a compelling case that meets all immigration rules. At Pacific Legal, we have the skills and resources to help you achieve this. We can conduct a formal assessment for you to find out whether you are eligible to submit an EOI and advise on the steps required.

What are the requirements for a Skilled Migrant Visa?

The Skilled Migrant Category is New Zealand’s main pathway to residence based on skills. It recognises the need for people with skills that match identified long-term labour market needs, and who can be deployed in New Zealand. This is how most individuals and families gain their New Zealand resident visa.

It operates a points-based system, with points awarded for education, work experience, job offers and personal attributes. Applicants must achieve 160 points or more to be selected from the pool. If you are selected you will receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA), and then need to meet standards relating to age, health, character, English language and more.

It also includes a Critical Skills Programme, which creates a non-points based pathway to residence for people with qualifications and skills that are in demand in New Zealand. This visa requires you to have a full-time job in the country, that pays at least twice the median salary.

How long does it take to get a Skilled Migrant Visa?

To qualify for a skilled migration visa, you must score at least 180 points in the Expression of Interest (EOI) process. This score will determine whether Immigration New Zealand issues you with an Invitation to Apply.

This process takes up to three months, depending on the complexity of your case. The sooner you start your application the better.

The new rules will give highly skilled migrants a clearer path to residency. They will be able to claim points for their occupation and employer in addition to the age, English language and health requirements that currently apply. These changes will be particularly beneficial to those in professions on the curated Government’s Green List, such as doctors and engineers. However, it is important to consult an expert to ensure your EOI meets the current rules. Our team of specialists will ensure that you claim the maximum number of points and are well prepared for your application. The longer you wait the more difficult it may be to meet the current criteria.

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