New resident visa options

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There have been almost no resident visa options for migrants, since the suspension of the Skilled Migrant Category, which was over two years ago, in March 2020. The only real exception has been the 2021 Resident Visa, which has now closed and excluded a lot of potential applicants.

However, on 27 July, Immigration New Zealand released law for an upcoming resident visa pathway. The new visa option is called the “Skilled Residence Visas”. This is not to be confused with the Skilled Migrant Category, which is still under review. There are three ways of qualifying for one of the Skilled Residence Visas:

  • Straight to Residence
  • Work to Residence
  • Highly Paid

Applications under these options may be processed within six weeks, which is far quicker than the Skilled Migrant Category. The application fee will be between $4,020 and $4,980, depending on whether the application is made from within New Zealand or offshore.

General requirements

All applicants must:

  • Be no more than 55 years old;
  • Meet English language requirements;
  • Meet health and character requirements (which are different to the temporary visa requirements); and
  • Have a job offer for or work for an accredited employer, under the new accreditation system.

Skilled Residence: Straight to Residence

The Straight to Residence pathway works alongside the ‘Tier 1 Green List’ for the Accredited Employer Work Visa’s (AEWV). Straight to Residence allows workers that meet the criteria on the Tier 1 Green List, to immediately apply for a resident visa.

The Tier 1 Green List is comprised of specific roles across the construction, engineering, health/ social services, primary industries/science, and ICT sectors. The intention is to address the considerable talent shortage that these industries face. There are strict qualification or professional registration requirements to be eligible for a Green List visa.

Applications for the Straight to Residence pathway open on 5 September 2022, including from applicants offshore. This means that migrants can apply for Skilled Residence Visa, before even coming to New Zealand.

Interestingly, the law does not specify what work visa the applicant for a Straight to Residence visa should hold. Therefore an applicant who is working in accordance with the Tier 1 Green List should be able to apply for the Straight to Residence visa, irrespective of their visa type.

Skilled Residence: Work to Residence

The Work to Residence pathway covers just a few roles, across a limited list of sectors, such as nurses, electricians, dairy farm managers, and teachers.

This pathway works in conjunction with ‘Tier 2’ of the Green List and allows migrants working in a ‘Tier 2 Green List’ role, to apply for a resident visa after working in their role for two years.

For this pathway, an applicant must either be on an accredited employer work visa or, have commenced work on another work visa before 4 July 2022. The employer must be accredited at the time of application.

As with the Straight to Residence category, the Green List requires applicants to meet strict qualification, registration and work experience requirements. Also, the requirement is proving 24 months of acceptable work in the Green List role.

Applications open under the Work to Residence category will also open in September 2023.

Skilled Residence: Highly Paid

Keeping in line with Immigration’s perception of high wage equating to high skill, Immigration New Zealand has provided a pathway specifically for the ‘highly paid’. Applications open under the Highly Paid category in September 2023.

If a worker earns at least twice the median wage (which is currently $55.52 per hour, which will be updated every February), and has for over 24-months, they can apply for the Highly Paid resident visa. The 24-month period can start counting from 29 September 2021 and does not have be completed consecutively, or in the same role.

This is assessed on an hourly basis and employment must be at least 30 hours per week. An applicant working no more than 30 hours per week but earning $87,000 could be eligible. A pleasing inclusion is that any time spent on parental leave, can still be used towards the 24-month period of Highly Paid work.

The work must be completed on an AEWV or, any other work visa held or applied for before 4 July 2022. Interestingly, an applicant can shift between the Work to Residence and Highly Paid eligibility, and still apply for a resident visa at the 24-month mark.

What does this mean?

From our experience, most migrants wish to move permanently to New Zealand, just because of the distances involved in coming here with their families. However, the Skilled Migrant Category has not reopened, and there are largely unattainable salary or qualification requirements for the new Skilled Residence visas. Therefore, the question remains, what are we doing to attract everyone else that New Zealand needs?

For advice on how to navigate the new resident visa pathway, reach out to our team of immigration specialists.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and is 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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