INZ makes changes to the Essential Skills Visa

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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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