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