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New Zealand Skilled Immigration Points System

Want to move to New Zealand to work? Many people from all walks of life relocate to this multicultural country every year to take advantage of the laidback lifestyle and stunning scenery. 

With its welcoming spirit and small population, you might think it will be easy to make this country your home. Not so fast! To get authorisation to live and work here, you will need to pass the strict immigration system. The Kiwi authorities follow the New Zealand skilled immigration points system to rank candidates seeking employment here. 

If you have in-demand expertise in areas like IT or construction, or if you are a medical professional, then you will find this process significantly easier. The Kiwi government values these skills very highly!

Read on to find out everything you need to know about the ins and outs of the system to help you prepare your candidacy.  

Want to explore the country before you decide to build a career here? You will need a NZeTA to travel here as a tourist (unless you are an Australian citizen).

New Zealand Immigration Requirements for Workers

Wondering how hard it is to immigrate to New Zealand? We won’t sugarcoat it, the immigration laws are quite strict, particularly with regards to working here. However, you can make your dream of living in “the country of the long white cloud” a reality if you have the skills, experience, and of course, the determination. 

Government labour statistics show that the country will continue to need about 47,000 more workers a year. Many of these positions will be filled by professionals coming from overseas. Highly skilled occupations are particularly in demand.

Want to know if you have the skills that the country needs? 

These are the 3 sectors with the most opportunities for highly skilled overseas workers:

  1. Health
  2. Engineering
  3. IT

There are also opportunities for those with more generalist skills in construction or other trades as well as for business services professionals like accountants and procurement managers. 

A Closer Look at the New Zealand Immigration Skills List

One thing is clear: it is much easier to get a work visa if you have the specific skills that the Kiwi government is looking for. You can see a full list of in-demand occupations on the government website, which is updated regularly. 

They are organised into several lists:

1. Long term skill shortage list (LTSSL)

This includes occupations where there is an ongoing shortage of highly skilled workers both on a national and global level.

If you get a job in a line of work that is on this list, you may be granted a Work to Residence Visa under the Long Term Skill Shortage List. After 2 years, you can then apply for residence providing that you meet certain requirements.

2. Regional skill shortage list (RSSL)

In some regions of the country, there aren’t enough local residents with the skills required to take up certain roles. Having expertise in one of these areas can really speed up the visa application process!

Received a job offer for an occupation on this list? You may be granted an Essential Skills Work Visa that will allow you to work in NZ temporarily.

3. Construction and infrastructure skill shortage (CISSL)

Have expertise in one of the construction roles in critical shortage in NZ? You may be granted an Essential Skills Work Visa. 

If your occupation is on both the CISSL and the LTSSL, you’re on to a winner! As well as being a strong candidate for an Essential Skills Work Visa, you may also be able to apply for residence.

There are some professions that don’t fit into these 3 categories but are highly desirable to the Kiwi government. Chefs, for example, are welcomed with open arms to cater to the country’s huge tourism and hospitality sector. 

You can find more information on the most sought after occupations on the NZ immigration website.

New Zealand Skilled Migrant Visa – What Makes You a Strong Candidate?

The NZ government is always on the lookout for international professionals with the expertise to fill the country’s skills gap. This is why they offer a visa specifically for skilled migrants.

Some of the profiles they are searching for when reviewing applications for the “Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa” include workers with know-how in these areas:

  • Construction project management
  • Electrical engineering 
  • Clinical psychology 
  • General surgery 
  • ICT project management

Scientists are also a desirable profile. If you specialise in spatial science, you’re a food technologist, or you’re an environmental research expert, the Kiwi government wants you!  

Skilled trade workers such as mechanics and electricians are highly valued too and will rack up points on the New Zealand skilled immigration points system. 

Aside from having the right skillset, what else can earn you points then? Having recognised qualifications and education will increase your chances of success. You will also gain points if you have close family already living in the country. 

Factors such as age and whether or not you have an offer of skilled employment also come into play if you are applying for this category of visa. Read the government site carefully before you apply!

How Do I Apply for the Skilled Migrant Visa?

Ready to make your application for a Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa? 

In order to apply, you must first confirm that you tick certain boxes:

  • Be aged 55 or under. 
  • Meet English language requirements.
  • Have an acceptable standard of health.
  • Be of good character and not pose a security risk to the country.

How to apply

Before applying, you must send an “Expression of Interest” to formally notify Immigration NZ that you would like to migrate. In your EOI you should talk about past employment in the country (if any), your work experience and your qualifications.

Got the skills that they’re looking for? Don’t be shy, wow the officials with your experience and show them why they’d be lucky to have you as a resident!

If you are self-employed, you will need to apply for a different type of visa. The Entrepreneur Resident Visa may be suitable for you instead, depending on the nature of your business. 

Once you’ve submitted your Expression of Interest, it will then be assessed by the immigration office using the official New Zealand skilled immigration points system. Only applicants with 160 points or above are being selected at the moment of writing. 

If your application is selected from the pool of EOIs, immigration officials may invite you to apply for residence. In this case, they will send you an ‘Application for Residence under the Skilled Migrant Category’ form for you to fill out. It may take up to 6 months for officials to make a decision regarding the final outcome of your application.

If you are successful, you’ll be offered the chance to live and work indefinitely in Kiwi land! A life-changing opportunity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is There an Age Limit for Immigration to New Zealand?

As mentioned above, the Skilled Migrant Category is a points system based on a number of factors including age. You will need to be under 55 to apply for this type of visa. This age restriction does not apply to the visitor, student, and partnership-based work and residence categories.

Want to Know How Many Points Officials Will Award You?

On the government website, there is a points indicator tool to assess how many points you are likely to be awarded. Please note that this is only a guide! Only an official immigration officer can award you points during their assessment of your visa application. However, this tool can give you a good idea of where you are likely to appear in the rankings.

How to Check Your Migrant Visa Application Online

Already applied online for a visa to work in NZ? You can check the status of your application via the government website. If Immigration officials require more information from you, you can find out here. Been waiting to hear back for a while? Processing time varies depending on a variety of factors, but you can get a good idea of how long this paperwork typically takes to process based on statistics taken from applications from previous years.

Lastly, for a full overview of how to migrate to this country, check out our guide to How to Move to New Zealand Step-by-Step.

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