Changes to the New Zealand Residency Programme: Questions and Answers



On 11 October 2016, the New Zealand government announced that significant changes to the New Zealand Residency Programme (NZRP) will take effect overnight. Unsurprisingly, there was widespread panic as it affected many people.

Two days after this overnight change in policy was  implemented, we continue to receive a steady stream of questions (not all are TJA clients), as well as other stakeholders, such as employers and recruiters.

Therefore, we have compiled our own “Question and Answers” specific to the changes for Expression of Interests (EOIs) for New Zealand’s Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) only.

Further, we are only including questions that have been asked more than once, addressed to us. This will continue to be updated as we too, have questions of our own that only time will tell.

Q: I already submitted my EOI prior to the changes. Can I get a refund from Immigration New Zealand (INZ) or from my adviser/lawyer?

A: This is by far one of the most asked question to date.  It is also being discussed by immigration practitioners. Our sources confirmed that INZ has instructed applicants who have submitted EOIs prior to the changes announced to proceed with submitting refund forms.

On the other hand, refunds from your own adviser/lawyer is by and large discretionary. If you have submitted full fees (not just for EOI), then it is our opinion that a partial refund should be given to clients, from a moral stand point of view. From a legal perspective, this is outside of anyone’s control and therefore, there are no legal obligations for advisers/lawyers to provide you with a refund.

Q: I have an Invitation to Apply from INZ prior to this change. I have no submitted my application. Will I be affected?
A: No.

Q: I have 160 points or more. Will my EOI still be selected automatically as it would previously with those claiming in excess of 140 points?
A: Yes.

Q: Does the minimum threshold of 100 points to be granted residence after applying change?
A: No

Q: Will the changes be noticeable?
A: Two weeks ago, there were a total of 980 EOIs submitted. Yesterday, that figure was 486. You be the judge.

Q: This is unfair, don't you think so?
 A: We have no comments, as the government is free to implement policies that it sees fit for the country.

However, the method this is done may give rise to concerns. On that note, if you are willing to foot the legal bill, we are more than happy to bring this decision to change overnight to Court. 

This will be done on the basis of a 'judicial review', derived from the common law doctrine of "legitimate expectation". *

* See, eg, New Zealand Association for Migration and Investments Inc v A-G [2006] NZAR 45 at 52

New Zealand Government considers further tightening of temporary visas

Image Source: Radio NZ
Image Source: Radio NZ


On the same day where significant changes where announced to New Zealand’s Residence Program (NZRP), Minister of Immigration Michael Woodhouse revealed the rational and new immigration targets, where the possibility of further tightening of temporary visas may happen by the end of 2016, according to an interview between Radio New Zealand and Woodhouse.

In the days following various poll results showing record numbers of new migrants settling in New Zealand, the current National government has come under fire and accused by the opposition of making a “U-turn” on immigration.

However, the NZRP provides a planning range which allows flexibility for the government to make fewer decisions at times of lower demand, such as when economic activity is depressed, while setting clear parameters for maximum numbers.

Therefore, as the previous NZRP target was set to conclude on June 2016, the new parameters set by the government has been announced in a timely manner, contrary to what the opposition asserts.

The planning range for residence visa approvals for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 financial years is between 85,000 and 95,000.

Thomas. Jefferson Associates will continue to monitor and update our blog on impacts of the new announcement made recently, and in particular, the impact and outcomes of those who were affected in the coming months.


If you have an eligibility enquiry since the new changes took place, do get in touch with one of our specialist consultants on for a free, no-obligation chat and assessment of your personal circumstances. 

Significant Changes to the New Zealand Residency Program (Skilled Migrant Category and Parent Category)


Skilled Migrant Category (SMC)

Important Changes Announced by Immigration New Zealand (INZ)
Two important changes to the SMC have been announced:
  • the points threshold for automatic selection will be increased from 140 points to 160 points, starting from Wednesday 12 October 2016. Having a job offer will no longer make a difference
  • the method to demonstrate you meet “minimum standard of English language requirement” will be changed

Prior to 12 October 2016
Previously, all Expression of Interests (EOIs) were selected automatically if:

  • 140 points or more is claimed; and
  • 100 – 139 points claimed alongside a current New Zealand employment or offer of employment

Rationale for Changes
The government announced the need to change in light of New Zealand’s growing popularity as a  favoured destination for migrants. Thus, a high demand for places under the SMC is inevitable.

To ensure that demand for places under the SMC is well balanced and managed effectively, INZ has set the total planning range for the Skilled/Business stream of the New Zealand Residence Program (NZRP) across 2016/17 and 2017/18 years at 50,500–57,500.

Under the existing system of selecting EOIs, more visas would be granted than the target range allows. However, this change is not permanent. The automatic selection mark for EOIs will likely be adjusted again as INZ sees fit in order to better manage the achievement of the overall NZRP.

The English Language Requirement
The minimum English language requirement for applicants under the SMC is an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) overall score of 6.5 across four (4) language domains (reading, writing, listening and speaking).

Prior to the 12 October 2016 change, immigration officers are able to consider various methods in place of an IELTS scale. They include:

  • recognised qualification where the medium of instruction was in English
  • one (1) year or more of “skilled employment” in New Zealand
  • other evidence demonstrating competency in English, such as the country you currently reside in, the nature of your current or previous employment, or whether members of your family speaks English

Despite the above, an immigration officer still has the discretion to request for an IELTS test if he or she thinks that it is required.

The English Language Changes for SMC’
Invitations to Apply (‘ITA’) sent after 12 October 2016 can no longer rely on the old method to demonstrate meeting the minimum requirements.

Instead, applicants not submitting IELTS tests can only be from one of the following categories as an alternative:

  • citizens of Canada, Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom or United States of America, provided that you have spent at least five (5) years working or studying in one or more of those countries, or in Australia or New Zealand;
  • a recognised qualification comparable to a New Zealand Level 7 Bachelor’s degree, gained from either Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom or United States of America, as a result of study undertaken for at least two (2) academic years in one or more of those countries; OR
  • a recognised qualification comparable to a New Zealand qualification at Level 8 or above, gained in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom or United States of America, as a result of study undertaken for at least one (1) academic year in one or more of those countries.

If you received your ITA prior to 12 October 2016, your application will not be affected and you may still use the alternatives previously in place.

Other English Language Tests to be Accepted
From 21 November 2016, INZ will also accept more variants of international English language tests.

The new tests that INZ will start accepting are:

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet Based Test (TOEFL iBT)
  • Occupational English Test (OET)
  • Cambridge English: First (FCE) and FCE for Schools
  • Pearson Test of English: Academic (PTE: Academic)

Scores Required under the new English language tests? 

Test Website Score required for SMC
International English Language Testing System (IELTS) 6.5
Occupational English Test (OET) B
Cambridge English: First (FCE) and FCE for Schools 176
Pearson Test of English: Academic (PTE: Academic) 58
Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet Based Test (TOEFL iBT) 79

English language tests are valid for two (2) years from the date of the test taken.

Parent Category

The Parent Category is being temporarily closed to new applications for at least the next two (2) years. INZ are not making selections from the Parent Category Pool until further notice.

INZ previously set the total number of places for the Capped Family categories (Parent Category and the ceased “Sibling and Adult Child” Categories) across the 2014/15 and 2015/16 years at 11,000 visa approvals.

This number is being reduced to a total of 4,000 visa approvals across the 2016/17 and 2017/18 years.

With a cap of only 2,000 visas to be granted per year, it will take until after the end of the 2017/18 financial year to clear all the applications already in the system.

Received your ITA, but not yet applied?
If you’ve been invited to apply, you may still put in an application. Your application will be queued until there are places available.

If you have submitted your EOI, it will remain in the pool. However, as no further draws will be made over the next two (2) years, it is unlikely that you will be invited to apply during this period.

Are there any other options?
Parents and grandparents of New Zealand citizens and residents have two (2) visa options available to them. They may apply under:

  • Parent Retirement Category: This category is uncapped, and requires investment in New Zealand.
  • Parent and Grandparent visitor visa: This category is for long-term temporary visits (a 36-month multiple-entry visa which enables stays of up to 6 months at a time, although at least 18 months must be spent outside New Zealand)

Thomas. Jefferson Associates
We pride ourselves on our specialised knowledge and procedures of Immigration regulations and policies. Our impeccable rate of success in representing our clients is a reflection of the level of our service quality.

If you find that you no longer meet the requirements for New Zealand visas as a result of the above changes, speak to one of our expert Consultants today on a no obligation basis to find out alternatives or options available for you or your family.


Changes for Nationals of South Africa, Seychelles and Mauritius visiting New Zealand










New Zealand has announced significant changes for all visitors from South Africa, Seychelles and Mauritius to New Zealand, according to separate reports announced by the government recently.

For many years, holders of South African passports have enjoyed visa free travel to New Zealand, However, Immigration New Zealand (“INZ“) has witnessed an increase of the risks involved.

They range from false South African passports detected, to the increasingly common refusal of entry for South Africans coming to New Zealand, usually by failing to establish a bona fide purpose visiting the country.

From 21 November 2016 onward, INZ will require holders of South African passports visiting New Zealand to apply and pay a NZ$165.00 application fee to apply for a tourist visa. This change brings New Zealand in line with Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA.

In a separate but similar report, INZ further announced the addition of Seychelles and the Republic of Mauritius onto their visa-waiver list of countries.

Thus, also from the same date of 21 November 2016, tourist visas for nationals of both these nations will enjoy visa free travel rights to New Zealand.

If you need expert advice from New Zealand qualified immigration lawyers and former INZ officers, get in touch with one of our expert Consultants today for a free eligibility assessment you can rely on.



T: +852 60949452

Who Are You Entrusting Your Future With?


Regulating the Immigration Industry

The practice of providing immigration related services and advice has been regulated by the government in Australia since the late 90’s and by New Zealand a few years ago.

A Reality Check

Whilst the industry has been cleaned up since introduction of regulations for advisers, the fact is, stories of rogue agents and lawyers defrauding vulnerable migrants are still not unheard of.

Just last week, the media reported a case of a migrant family being conned tens of thousands of dollars by a rogue agent. On a regular basis, we at TJA have also witnessed clients’ request for change of representatives after having their application delayed and made a mess of.

Who Would You Entrust?

Therefore, we are posing this fundamental question. There are no shortage of supplies of:

  • #clueless #lawyers who have never dealt with the practice of immigration law;
  • happy go lucky #migration #agents who will be out of reach when you need help from them;
  • #agents or #lawyers who will distort the truth and advice you and tell you everything about nothing just to entice you; OR
  • A professional Thomas. Jefferson Associates Consultant, an ex immigration officer, turned lawyer and specialising in the practice of immigration law

The choice is in your hands.