What you need to know about the recent changes to New Zealand’s Immigration rules

06 November 2016

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has made some sudden changes to immigration criteria, and the sum total of these is that it’s going to be a bit harder to get residency here. The rule changes affect the Skilled Migrant Category and the Parent Category. Here’s a quick rundown on what it could mean for you.

Skilled Migrant Category (SMC)

This accounts for a large proportion of New Zealand’s residency visas, and has been granted at record levels for the last two years. People wanting residency under SMC make an expression of interest to INZ. If that satisfies the immigration officials, they are invited to make a formal application. It’s a point based system, and – as of 11 October – the required number of points has risen from 140 to 160.

If this impacts your application, the first thing to consider is whether you can live outside of Auckland. If you can, INZ will reward your application with a whopping 30 additional points. That’s because the Government is keen to offset Auckland’s aggressive population growth. The bonus will more than compensate the losses many people encounter due to the new target.

In addition to raising the score, the new rules also specify more stringent standards for English language ability, especially for applicants from countries where English is not the first language. The upside to the language element is that INZ is also more transparent about the various tests you can take to demonstrate your ability, which has removed some ambiguity.

Other than language, the Government is not identifying any particular aspect of your application needs to be beefed up. But – reading between the lines – it’s not hard to see that this is a good time to invest in additional training and higher qualifications.

The new rules were introduced officially on 12 October. People who submitted an Expression of Interest before then, but who have not yet received their Invitation to Apply, will be assessed under the old rules for their points. However, they will also be assessed under the new rules for English language criteria.

So, yes, the bar has been raised, and we can expect migrant flows to New Zealand to slow down for the first time in two years. And, yes, there are also options, from raising your qualifications, to choosing your English language test to exploring the many fabulous options outside of Auckland.

If you’re considering a move to anywhere in New Zealand, we the resources to help you every step of the way, from visas and jobs to moving your moggie. And, if you want to assess your visa eligibility before getting too deep into the application process, our Eligibility Report can do that for you, too. There’s a small fee but it will save you a huge amount of time and grief, and greatly enhance the chance of success.

Parent category

As people come to live in New Zealand to work, it’s better if they can bring their family with them, too. At present, many residency visas have no caps on the number of dependent children you can bring in. However, Parent Visas are capped, and the Government has reduced this cap rather abruptly from 5,000 to 2,000 for the current financial year.

The bad news is that INZ has more applications than remaining spaces under the new cap of 2,000. Approximately 1,500 of the current applicants will be queued to the following financial year, which begins in July 2017. New applicants will be added to the queue and once the queue exceeds the cap, new applicants will be queued for the following financial year, and so on.

This means three things. First, the sooner you get started, the more likely you’ll be processed in the 2017/18 financial year.

Second, move swiftly, but don’t panic. There are some indications that the Government will review the cap.

Third, check out two other visa options: the Parent Retirement Category visa, and the Parent/Grandparent Category visitor visa (although they won’t suit everyone). The Parent Retirement Category requires a fairly chunky investment in New Zealand and financial self-sufficiency. The Parent/Grandparent visitor visor permits you to stay for up to 6 months at a time, and is renewable every 36 months, but also requires you to spend at least 18 months of that time outside New Zealand.

Lastly, you can get advice from our team of qualified, registered visa consultants. They know the ropes, and for a modest fee will handle much of the difficult research involved in any kind of visa application. Plus, when your application does make its way in front of the officials, our consultants will increase its chances of success, too.

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