Essential skills work visa changes being implemented today, 28 August 2017

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essential skills work visa changes


Skilled migration to New Zealand is looking different as of today due to changes made to the essential skills work visa as well as the skilled migrant visa.

To understand the changes, you need to understand how the rules worked up to now and how the rules have now changed.

We’re going to keep our explanation as simple as possible, but it does get complicated!

We encourage you to email us or call us on +27 (0) 21 202 8200 to have a chat instead. It is now more important than ever to work with a professional!

Old rules vs new rules

To qualify for an essential skills work visa up to now, you must have met certain skill level requirements. INZ determined whether or not you met these requirements by evaluating:

  • Your occupation’s ANZSCO level.
  • Your work experience and qualifications.
  • Your salary. Specifically – Is it market related?

In cases where the outcome showed that you do qualify for an essential skills work visa, the visa was then issued for up to 5 years.

Now INZ is adding a fourth qualifier to establish skill your level:

  • Your hourly remuneration.

That’s not all that’s changing though – INZ has also introduced three skill bands.

Together all of these qualifiers determine how long you will be permitted to stay in New Zealand. (Keep in mind that the essential skills work visa is only a temporary visa.For residency you have to qualify under the skilled migrant category.)

Diving into the skill bands and remuneration requirements

There are now three skill bands as mentioned. These are:

  • Lower-skilled.
  • Mid-skilled.
  • Higher-skilled.

Remember – your remuneration and ANZSCO occupation level will determine in which skill band you fall.

Here is how this will work:

Remuneration ANZSCO 1 – 3 ANZSCO 4 – 5
NZ$35.24+ per hour HIGH HIGH
NZ$19.97 – NZ$35.24 per hour MID LOW
Less than NZ$19.97 per hour LOW LOW

Here’s what these classifications mean:

We already mentioned that the skill bands will determine how long you’ll be allowed to stay in New Zealand.

BUT your skill band will also determine the type of visa your partner or dependent child(ren) will be able to apply for on the basis of their relationship to you:

Skill band Maximum visa length Maximum number of visas (renewals) Eligible to support partner/child visa
Higher-skilled 5 years Unlimited Yes, partner work, student or visitor visa
Mid-skilled 3 years Unlimited Yes, partner work, student or visitor visa
Lower-skilled 1 year Up to 3 years Yes, but only visitor visas

Let’s explain this:

You can renew your visa, as many times as you like, for 5 or 3 years on the higher-skilled or mid-skilled bands respectively. You visa status supports your family’s applications to work, go to school or simply visit you.

The lower-skilled band is different though.

Let’s take a closer look at the lower-skilled employment band

Should you qualify for an essential skills work visa on lower-skilled employment, it will be subject to the following:

  • Your visa is only valid for one year and may only be renewed for up to 3 years.
  • Once you’ve held an essential skills work visa for 3 years, you must spend 12 consecutive months outside of New Zealand BEFORE you can make another application for an essential skills work visa for lower-skilled employment.
  • Your partner and children are only eligible to apply for visitor visas based on their relationship with you. If your family would like to also live in New
  • Zealand while working or going to school they MUST apply for their own New Zealand visas. This means your family will have to make applications for work visas, student visas and meet the requirements for the visas in their own right.

Are these essential skills work visa changes all bad news?

No, not necessarily.

Even if you qualify under the lower-skilled band, you’ll still be allowed to make an application for another type of visa or an essential skills work visa based on mid-skilled or higher-skilled employment.

How, you ask? You might get promoted or get a raise during your employment period, both of which could qualify you for one of the top two skill bands.

What if I’ve already submitted my essential skills work visa application?

The essential skills work visa changes discussed here are only applied to applications made on or after today, 28 August 2017.

Special arrangements are in place to provide for family members of current essential skills work visa holders who will now fall under the lower-skilled skill band.

Please chat to one of our advisers about this if you are concerned that you’ll be affected. Our number is +27 (0) 21 202 8200.


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