Immigration – changes to work and resident visas

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Last Friday evening, Immigration New Zealand, announced changes affecting Essential Skills work visa applications, and Resident visa applications made under the Skilled Migrant Category.

Essential Skills work visas

  • Changes to “stand down” period from 10 June 2021 – The stand-down period requires people on lower-paid Essential Skills work visas to leave New Zealand for at least 12-months, after three or four years (depending on their occupation), before they can apply for another lower-paid work visa.

From 10 June 2021, the earliest date that a visa applicant will be subject to having to depart New Zealand, for the stand-down period of 12 months, will be 30 June 2022.

  • Change to duration of lower skilled work visas

The maximum duration of an Essential Skills work visa that can be granted to a person earning below the median wage has increased from six to twelve months.

  • Change to median hourly wage from 19 July 2021 – Any Essential Skills visa applications submitted from 19 July onwards will be assessed against the updated median hourly wage rate of $27, which is an increase from $25.50.

This pay rate will determine whether jobs are treated as higher or lower paid, with people earning less than $27.00 an hour considered to be paid below the median wage. This, in turn, determines:

  • how long the visa is granted for;
  • when the compulsory “stand down” period would start;
  • if the applicant can support a work visa for his or her partner; and
  • how the employer must prove that it has tried to find a New Zealand citizen or resident for the role.

Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa applications

The change to the median hourly wage also impacts Residence visa applications, under the Skilled Migrant Category.

Effective from 19 July 2021:

  • for occupations at skill level 1, 2 or 3, the remuneration required for a job to be considered skilled will be updated to $27.00 per hour;
  • for occupations at skill level 4 and 5, the remuneration required for a job to be considered skilled will be updated to $40.50 per hour (1.5 times the median wage);
  • the remuneration required to be awarded bonus points for high remuneration will be updated to $54.00 per hour (twice the median wage).


The change in the median wage may also signal future changes to other visa requirements. These have not yet been announced by Immigration New Zealand, but could potentially include:

  • An increase in the threshold for Critical Purpose visa holders staying longer than six months or wanting to bring family into NZ; and
  • Whether a resident visa application is given priority. 

For more information or specialist advice, please contact a member of our immigration team.


Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.

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