Changes to New Zealand’s residence

On 11 October the New Zealand Government announced several immediate changes to the New Zealand Residence Programme (NZRP). The changes are significant for some future migrants, for those already in New Zealand hoping to stay long term and for businesses wanting to retain the services of highly valued employees. 

The Government announced a change to reduce the planning range for residence approvals to 42,500 to 47,500 per year for the next two years, down from the range of 45,000 to 50,000 per year for the last two years. In order to achieve this, several changes affecting the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) and the Parent Category have been announced.  

The changes include: 

  • increasing the threshold for automatic selection for migrants applying under the SMC from 140 to 160; 
  • changing the way SMC applicants may prove how they meet English language requirements, which would require more people to undertake formal English tests
  • reducing the annual cap of residence applications that may be approved under the Parent Category from 5,500 to 2,000. As there are already a number of these applications currently being processed, the Parent Category will be closed for new applications until further notice. 

Businesses with employees who currently hold work visas and who are intending to apply for a resident visa via the SMC may want to consider providing some additional support to these workers to ensure they meet the higher threshold to be successful in the SMC residence application.  

Businesses may want to consider whether they are eligible for, and should apply to become, an ‘accredited employer’ with Immigration New Zealand. Future employees may then be able to obtain Talent (Accredited Employer) work visas giving them, potentially, a more straightforward path to residence a couple of years later.  

Businesses with migrant employees who intended to sponsor their parents under the Parent Category to New Zealand will not be able to submit an application now (until further notice). Migrant workers without their family network in New Zealand may be less likely to stay long term, e.g. due to struggles with childcare support while they work, so businesses with migrant employees may need to consider providing some additional support there. 

International students who have graduated from New Zealand tertiary education institutions and are on a Study-to-Work pathway leading towards eligibility for SMC residence may find they need to work for a few more years before they are able to claim enough points to be successful in their SMC residence application. Businesses with employees in this category may have to support more of such work visa applications before these employees may obtain residence. 

What this means for you as an employer? 

There is no impact on the ability of businesses to support temporary work visa applications to address immediate skill shortages. However those businesses should plan ahead and consider what steps can be taken to help ensure valued employees can obtain further work visas or residence visas to enable them to stay longer term.  

Raising the current bar to obtain residence is a prudent measure and should be one that is taken in conjunction with a focus on training New Zealand residents and citizens to address skill shortages longer term.  

Please do not hesitate to reach out to your usual PwC contact for further details. 


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