How the 6 point SMC points system will work

The New Zealand government has announced the details of the new uncapped, 6-point system for the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa (SMC). The changes aim to simplify the visa process for skilled migrants, ultimately offering a more straightforward pathway to residency for those who meet specific criteria.

From October 2023, the new SMC system will replace the current settings, offering a clear skills threshold and a variety of options for applicants to meet the 6-point criteria.

What is a Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa?

The SMC visa is a direct-to-residence pathway for the highest-skilled people in each category, including migrants holding a professional registration requiring at least six years’ formal training and/or work experience, people with a doctorate, or people earning at least three times the median wage.

The simplified points system is structured to set a clear skills threshold, equivalent to six years of “human capital”. This is consistent with the focus on granting residence to people who can meet medium-to long-term skill needs in New Zealand that are hard, or would take time, to fill from the domestic labour market.

What are the Skilled Migrant Visa Points System Requirements?

Under the new simplified points system, applicants must have at least 6 points to be eligible for the SMC visa. The points are allocated via a threshold outlined by Immigration New Zealand from one of the following three categories.

1. You get points from income

Your income while working in New Zealand may give you 3 to 6 points for your application depending on how far above the median wage your income or proposed job offer income is.

This means that highly skilled people in occupations where skills are primarily developed on-the-job, including many trades, can become eligible for residence without needing to meet any other formal skill measures.

To gain points from your income, your job or job offer must be full-time (minimum of 30 hours per week) and with an accredited employer.

For example:

  • You can receive 3 points for payment 1.5 above the median wage ($44.49 per hour).
  • You can receive 4 points for payments twice the median wage ($59.32 per hour).
  • You can receive 6 points for payments three times the median wage ($88.98 per hour).

2. You receive points for qualifications

You can attain between 3-6 points depending on your highest qualification level and its New Zealand Qualification Framework (NZQA) equivalent.

For example:

  • If you have a Level 10 Doctorate Degree, you can claim 6 points
  • A Level 9 Master’s will allocate you 5 points
  • Level 8 Bachelor’s Degree or Post Graduate Diploma will give you 4 points
  • You can receive 3 points for a Level 8 Post Graduate Certificate or Level 7 Bachelor’s Degree

If you have a degree or qualification from outside New Zealand, you may need to have it assessed by NZQA. From October 2023, Immigration New Zealand will update their list of qualifications that need not be evaluated.

Please note: If you have a non-degree qualification at NZQA Level 7 or below, you will not be eligible to claim points for qualifications.

How are qualifications vs skills ascertained?

Qualifications can be gained in New Zealand or overseas. The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) undertakes an International Qualification Assessment (IQA) to evaluate how qualifications gained overseas compare to New Zealand qualifications. Points are awarded for the equivalent New Zealand level.

Qualifications claimed under this skill category do not need to be directly relevant to a person’s role. Relevance can be difficult for Immigration New Zealand to assess, and this approach recognises that a person can often transfer skills gained through higher-level qualifications across a range of occupations.

3. You receive points for occupational registration in NZ

Applicants can use their occupational registration to claim points if they are on Immigration New Zealand’s list of eligible occupational registrations. Those who have more occupational training will be granted more points.

For example:

  • To be granted 6 points, a minimum of 6 years of training is required to gain registration.
  • To be granted 5 points, a minimum of 5 years of training is required to gain registration.
  • To be granted 4 points, a minimum of 4 years of training is required to gain registration.
  • To be granted 3 points, a minimum of 2 years of training is required to gain registration.

This simplified process acknowledges that the registering body is well-placed to assess if people have the skills required to work in their New Zealand sector, meaning that Immigration New Zealand does not need to duplicate this assessment.

Can you combine points from different SMC categories?

Applicants can only claim points from 1 of the skill categories above (qualification, registration or income) that offer them the most points. For example, you cannot combine your qualification points with your New Zealand occupational registration points.

The more skill points a person claims in this sector, the shorter the period of work experience is required before you can apply for residence.

What if I don’t score 6 points from the 1-3 list above?

If you do not meet the 6-point threshold from your income, qualifications or occupational registration, you can get additional points via skilled work experience in New Zealand.

4. You can gain points from work experience

Applicants will be able to claim 1 point for each year of skilled work experience gained in New Zealand, up to a maximum of 3 points.
The skilled work experience must be in a full-time job, with a minimum of 30 hours a week AND meet the wage threshold depending on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) level of the job.

For example:

  • For skilled level 1-3 roles you need to be paid $29.66
  • For skill level 4 and 5 roles you need to be paid $44.49.

According to Immigration New Zealand, you can claim points for skilled work experience in New Zealand from:

  • 36 months during the 60 months before you apply if you are claiming 3 points
  • 24 months during the 48 months before you apply if you are claiming 2 points
  • 12 months during the 24 months before you apply if you are claiming 1 point

If you claimed points under the Income classification then you must meet the same rate of pay for the period of work experience you are claiming points for.

Here is an example: If you claimed 4 points for income at 2x median wage ($59.32 per hour) from your employment you will also need two years of New Zealand-based work experience to achieve the six points. The experience must have been paid at the same rate over the two years.

In addition, you must also meet this income threshold for any work experience you declare in your application in order to make up the 6 points.

As noted above, you must also meet the same income threshold stated for any work experience you declare in your application if you choose points from the Income skills category.

How is skilled work in New Zealand defined?

Skilled work in New Zealand demonstrates a commitment to New Zealand and the ability for someone to deploy their skills. The focus on skilled work in New Zealand means migrants can demonstrate a record of employment that Immigration New Zealand can verify.

Overseas work experience can be indirectly recognised when a professional body has assessed it as part of professional registration or meeting the income threshold.

Are there any other changes migrants need to be aware of?

Although the new SMC aims to simplify the process for skilled migrants applying for residency in New Zealand, some of the requirements for the SMC will remain the same. Applicants will still be required to meet a minimum standard of English Language requirements. The applicant and any accompanying family must also continue to meet age, health, character and national security requirements.

Median Wage Changes

It is also good to be aware that the median wage in New Zealand is updated annually. These changes will happen in February 2024 and will need to be taken into consideration for any applications after this date.

Skilled Migrant Category Interim Visa

Migrants who apply for the SMC whose current visa expires while their application is being processed, will be granted a Skilled Migrant Category Interim Visa. When granted, the eVisa will come into effect the day after your current visa expires and will remain until your SMC visa is granted.

How long will it take to process my SMC application?

New Zealand Immigration state that straightforward applications that present all the required information and documentation will take approximately 6-8 weeks.

How NZIL can help

NZIL are experts in navigating the complexities of the immigration system. If you need help or comprehensive advice in preparation for your SMC application or what the changes might mean for you, get in touch with our experienced and knowledgeable team today.

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