Immigration New Zealand (INZ) made two significant changes to the Essential Skills visas on 27 July 2020.
INZ will now use median-wage thresholds to assess visa applications instead of skill levels and INZ has reduced the maximum stay duration of Essential Skills Visas for higher-skilled positions.
These changes only apply to visa applications made on or after 27 July 2020.
Median wage thresholds have replaced skill levels
If you applied for an Essential Skills Visa prior to 27 July 2020, Immigration New Zealand will use a combination of your job’s ANZSCO skill level and your salary to assess if you are low, mid or high skilled.
This system is no longer in use for applications made on or after 27 July. INZ will use a median-wage threshold as an indicator of skills instead.
This means Essential Skills visa applicants are now being assessed as either:
- at or above the median wage, or
- below the median wage.
INZ will use the current median wage of NZ$25,50 an hour when assessing Essential Skills visa applications.
The maximum duration of visas for higher-skilled shortened
Your skill level has always determined how long you can stay on your Essential Skills Visa.
This has gone through many changes over the past couple of years but the maximum stay for higher-skilled applicants has always been 5 years.
Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. Higher-skilled applicants who make visa applications on or after 27 July 2020 will now only be eligible for a maximum stay duration of up to 3 years.
This is how INZ will determine maximum stays:
- You earn at or above the median wage: You’re eligible for a visa of up to 3 years. There is no longer a 5-year visa for higher-skilled jobs.
- You earn below the median wage: You’re eligible for a visa of up to 6 months. The maximum combined duration of all work visas for jobs paying below the median wage is 3 years. After that time, you’ll be subject to a stand-down period of 12 months.
What is a stand-down period?
A stand-down period is a period during which you have to be outside of New Zealand before being able to apply for another visa for work that’s below the median wage.
You’ll have to honour a stand-down period if you:
- were assessed as lower-skilled if you applied for your visa before 27 July 2020, or
- earn below the median wage if you apply on or after 27 July 2020.
This stand-down applied even while INZ is processing a Skilled Migrant visa application.
The stand-down is delayed for 6 months for some visa holders
If you were in New Zealand on 10 July 2020 and you have an Essential Skills visa that’ll expire before 31 December 2020, your visa will be extended for 6 months and your stand-down period will be delayed.
You can read more about the duration of stay on Essential Skills visa on Immigration New Zealand’s website.
Supporting accompanying family members
You’re still able to support family members who want to join you in New Zealand, but the ‘how’ will also be determined by the median-wage threshold:
- You earn at or above the median wage: You can support a work or visitor visa for your partner as well as visitor or student visas for your dependent children.
- You earn below the median wage: You can support your partner for a visitor visa. If your partner would like to work in New Zealand, they’d have to apply for a work visa in their own right once they’re in New Zealand. You can also support visitor or student visas for your dependent children, provided you meet the minimum income threshold, which is currently NZ$43,322.76 or more.
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It’s almost guaranteed that you’ve come across the phrase ‘New Zealand skills shortage list’ in your emigration research.
But what is it? And what role does it play in your emigration? These are the types of questions we’d like to answer for you today.
What is the New Zealand skill shortage list?
The first thing you should know is that there are three skill shortage lists, not just one:
- Long Term Skills Shortage List (LTSSL)
- Regional Skill Shortage List (RSSL)
- Construction and Infrastructure Skill Shortage List (CISSL)
Collectively, these lists are called the Essential Skills in Demand Lists (ESID). Individually, each list is a record of occupations experiencing a shortage of skilled workers in New Zealand.
What role does the skill shortage lists play in my emigration?
We’ll let Immigration New Zealand explain: “If you’re offered a job that’s on one of the lists, and you’ve got the qualifications and experience to match, getting a work or residence visa may be easier.”
How do the lists work?
If your occupation is on a shortage list, the position you’re offered won’t have to be subjected to an individual labour market test.
This means the New Zealand employer doesn’t have to demonstrate that the company couldn’t find suitable New Zealanders to fill the position or to train for the position.
Thus, if the position you’re offered is on a skill shortage lists it means suitable New Zealanders are hard to find and a visa can be granted to a qualified worker from overseas.
This makes the application process easier for both you and your prospective employer.
The three skills shortage lists
As explained, there are three skills shortage lists. Each list offers the opportunity to qualify for a certain visa or visas.
1. Long Term Skills Shortage List (LTSSL)
The Long Term Skills Shortage List identifies occupations where there is a sustained and on-going shortage of highly skilled workers throughout New Zealand.
In other words, your occupation is in demand not just now but also for the foreseeable future.
What visas can you apply for?
If you’re offered a position in an occupation that’s on the LTSSL and you meet the requirements associated with the occupation, you’ll be eligible to apply for either an Essential Skills Work Visa or for a Long Term Skills Shortage List work visa:
- Essential Skills Work Visa: The Essential Skills Work Visa is a temporary work visa. In certain cases, going on to apply for permanent residency is possible. It would be best to discuss your eligibility with your immigration advisor at the time of making your temporary visa application.
- LTSSL Work Visa: If you obtain a LTSSL Work Visa, you’ll be eligible to apply for residence after two years of working. This is provided that you can also meet these important requirements:
- You have ongoing employment
- You annual salary is at least NZ$45,000
2. Regional Skilled Shortage List (RSSL)
The Regional Skilled Shortage List (RSSL) identifies 15 regions with occupations that have an immediate shortage of skilled workers. This gives migrants a better idea about opportunities in regional areas.
What visas can you apply for?
If your occupation, qualifications and experience appear on the RSSL, you may be eligible for to apply for an Essential Skills Work Visa.
3. Construction and Infrastructure Skill Shortage List (CISSL)
The Construction and Infrastructure Skill Shortage List also contains immediate short-term skills shortages but these shortages are specific to the construction industry. The CISSL is divided into the same 15 regions as the RSSL.
What visas can you apply for?
If your occupation, qualifications and experience appear on the CISSL, you may be eligible for to apply for an Essential Skills Work Visa.
How does Immigration New Zealand decide on the occupations on these lists?
New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) reviews the Essential Skills in Demand Lists regularly, with contributions from industry groups. During these reviews the MBIE decide if any occupations should be:
- Added or removed from a list; or
- Moved to another list.
The first step in the process is selecting occupations for review. Once this has been done, submissions on nominated occupations are invited from industry groups.
The last step is the MBIE deciding on the changes and publishing the new lists.
What if my occupation is not the Essential Skills in Demand Lists?
You still have options if you want to work in New Zealand!
1. Essential Skills Work Visa with motivation from an employer and a labour market test
You could still apply for an Essential Skills Work Visa, even if your occupation doesn’t appear on the Essential Skills in Demand Lists.
To do this, your prospective employer must motivate why they should be allowed to employ a foreigner.
The employer will also have to submit to a labour market test. This means the New Zealand employer must demonstrate that the company advertised the position and could not find a New Zealand citizen or resident to fill the position you’re being offered.
The requirements associated with the labour market test will depend on whether the position is deemed high-skilled or low-skilled:
- High-skilled positions:
- Motivational statement
- The text for the job advert
- Details of where and for how long the advert ran for
- Low-skilled positions:
- A Skills Match Report from Work and Income
- Proof of advertising the role
- Motivational statement
- Proof there are no New Zealanders available to do the work
- Proof there are no New Zealanders who they believe are suitable for the role
From your side, you’d have to be able to prove that you have the skills, qualifications and experience to do the job. You’d also have to obtain professional or trade registrations if applicable.
2. Skilled Migrant Visa
Don’t forget about the Skilled Migrant Visa! This is a highly coveted work visa among migrants because it offers immediate permanent residency to the visa holder. The criteria is strict though!
You’ll have to:
- Be under the age of 55
- Have your skills, experience and qualifications assessed as skilled
- Have an offer of skilled employment
- Meet New Zealand’s health and character requirements
- Meet the minimum English language requirements
3. Other visas that allow you to work
How do I find out if my occupation appears on a skill shortage list?
You can do a search for your occupation on Immigration New Zealand’s website, but your occupation appearing on a skill shortage list is not the full picture. You still have to meet all the other requirements to qualify for a work visa.
If you want to know if you can apply for a work visa, we can help you get to the answer by doing an immigration assessment with you.
You can take the first step right now by booking a consultation call. You’ll speak directly with one of our licensed immigration advisors.
There are three Essential Skills in Demand Lists namely the Long Term Skills Shortage List, the Regional Skills Shortage List and the Construction and Infrastructure Skill Shortage List.
These lists identify skills shortage areas in New Zealand and serve as records of the specific occupations in need.
Your occupation appearing on a skills list is a good sign, but it’s only the first piece of the puzzle. This is why doing an immigration eligibility assessment is always a good way to start your immigration journey!