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New Zealand Immigration Policy Update: Opportunities for Skilled Workers to Secure Residence Visas

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

According to the latest Stats NZ data, New Zealand experienced a net migration gain of 11,700 in February 2021 - the second-highest gain for any month ever. So, although it’s fair to say NZ was slow out of the gates from an immigration perspective post-pandemic, the reality is we are getting ourselves back into the game to some extent.

In recent months, there have been significant changes to New Zealand's immigration policies, with a particular focus on the country's "Green List" of eligible occupations for skilled workers, which provides a pathway to residence. These changes have been introduced in response to ongoing challenges faced by an extremely tight labour market. NZ needs skilled workers now; this is at last starting to be recognised by policymakers.

The recent changes have seen a number of our clients achieve residence within an extremely short period of time. Within weeks of securing jobs in healthcare, construction and engineering we have had clients secure their residence visas – an outcome that would until recently have taken upwards of 18 months; notably several of these people are still offshore, so are coming into NZ having already completed the process.

And additions to the Green List continue to come. 32 health sector roles were added to the Straight to Residence pathway earlier this month, and we expect more in the coming months. You can read more about the Green List, what it entails, and if your occupation is on it here: NZ Green List.

But, regardless of whether your occupation features on the Green List or not, if you are a skilled worker under the age of 56 you may still be able to qualify for residence of NZ under the Skilled Migrant Category. This points-tested residence visa has been the mainstay of NZ’s skilled migrant framework for many years and re-opened in December of 2022 – read more about the SMC here: Skilled Migrant Category Visa. Recent processing changes for SMC applications (INZ has taken the process online) also appear to have increased the speed at which these applications are processed, with many clients receiving residence within similar timeframes noted above for Green List occupations.

This means for many, the immigration policy settings that currently exist in NZ represent the best time to migrate for many years; but how long this will continue we do not know. The Govt is currently undertaking a review of the SMC, with a proposed new framework to be implemented later this year. Although no date has yet been decided for the rollout of this, we do expect it will exclude some of those currently eligible.

As we often remind our clients, ‘time is your enemy in this process’, and ‘everyone’s circumstances’ are different. So, if you’re thinking of making the move, or have decided you’re going to make it happen, you will almost certainly benefit from some expert advice on the way forward. In the first instance, we suggest having a consultation with us to go through your options; we can do this via Zoom, phone or in person – up to you.

The consultation gives us a chance to assess your eligibility, and importantly it also gives us a chance to outline the process and break down the steps required to achieve the visas you need.

If you would like to have a consultation with one of our lawyers, you can book at the following link: Book a Consultation. The consult lasts approximately. 60 mins and there is a cost for the consult of $350, which we’re sure you’ll find of good value.



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