Skilled Migrant Category Residence – apply now or later?

Introduced in December 2003, the current Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) policy stands as New Zealand’s primary permanent migration program, accounting for over half of all residence approvals. Notably, the SMC policy not only attracts skilled individuals from abroad but also complements temporary visa initiatives, providing a ‘pathway to residence’ for many temporary workers and New Zealand international students.

As you may be aware, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) recently unveiled updates to its SMC policy, which, it claims, both bolsters the quality of skilled workers who are given the opportunity to settle here while offering greater certainty to migrants and their employers.

With less than one week until the current SMC policy expires, it is important to understand the differences between both, so you can decide whether to lodge an Expression of Interest (EOI) now or later.

Here are a few questions to help you make the call:

Do you have a job offer in NZ?

If you don’t have a job offer in New Zealand but meet the points requirements under the current SMC through a lot of offshore work experience and high qualifications, consider lodging an EOI under the current SMC policy before 16 August 2023.  On this date, an offer of skilled employment in New Zealand will be a mandatory requirement to lodge an SMC application.

Are you a skilled tradesperson with lots of experience but no formal qualification (or only a New Zealand equivalent trade certificate or diploma)?

Unless your role is deemed to be ‘in high demand’ in New Zealand (and you meet the criteria for an application under the Green List), get advice on whether you meet the requirements for an application under the current SMC policy as soon as possible.

After 15 August 2023, it will be difficult for many tradespeople to get residence in New Zealand unless they are well-paid and have New Zealand work experience.

This advice is particularly relevant to offshore migrants who are in the middle of making a move here but haven’t investigated residence yet.

Are you under 56 but struggle to meet the points requirements under the current SMC policy because of your age?

Many of our clients in their late 40s and 50s who are highly qualified and skilled, struggle to meet points requirements under the current SMC because they can’t claim enough points for their age.  If this is you, get advice on your eligibility for residence under the new policy.  We can help you put a plan together, so you have certainty about the right time to apply.

Are you light on work experience but have a high qualification (Master or PhD)?

Get advice on your eligibility, but it may be worth to consider waiting until the new SMC policy comes into effect in October 2023 before applying.  Under the new policy, if you hold a New Zealand equivalent PhD and an offer or skilled employment, you can apply for residence straight away.  If your highest qualification is a Master’s, you just need to show one year of skilled work experience under the new policy.

Key Dates:

  • 15 August 2023 – the last day an Expression of Interest (EOI) under the current SMC policy will be accepted.
  • 16 August 2023 – the last selection of EOIs under the current SMC policy.
  • 9 October 2023 – new SMC policy becomes effective.


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