Skilled Migrant Category Residence Visa

The Skilled Migrant Category Residence visa (“SMC visa”) is a “points” tested visa which allows people who have skills that the New Zealand economy requires to be given the opportunity to live and work in New Zealand indefinitely.

The application process has four stages.

Stage 1 – Expression of Interest (EOI)

The first stage of the SMC visa application process is the Expression of Interest (EOI).

An EOI is a request by you, to New Zealand Immigration, to be invited to make a visa application. You will be requested to provide a range of information covering your employment in New Zealand, your work experience and qualifications. Whether or not you are invited to apply for a visa is strictly determined by a points system.

If you do not have at least 100 points, your EOI will not be accepted into the “pool” of EOIs. Currently only EOIs with 160 points or above are being selected to receive an invitation to apply for a SMC visa.

Points are awarded for a variety of factors, including:

  • Age (you must be under 55 when you are invited to apply for a SMC visa);
  • Qualifications;
  • Skilled employment (current New Zealand employment/ job offer). Eligibility for points depends on what that job is, how much you are/ will be paid to do it and where it is located);
  • Skilled work experience. Eligibility for points depends on what that job was, where it was located and how much you were paid to do it);
  • English language ability;
  • Your partner’s English language ability, qualifications and skilled employment/ job offer in New Zealand.

Stage 2 – Invitation

The second stage of the process is the invitation to apply for a SMC visa. EOIs are selected from the pool periodically (normally every two weeks). At that stage, New Zealand Immigration checks that you’ve claimed the right number of “points”. If you meet the minimum points required, you may be invited to apply for a SMC visa.

Stage 3 – Application

The third stage is the application for a SMC visa. If you are invited to apply for the visa, New Zealand Immigration will send you an “Application for Residence under the Skilled Migrant Category” form. If you are invited to apply and you cannot substantiate the information you provided in your EOI, your visa application will be refused. Therefore, a well prepared and substantiated EOI is essential.

Stage 4 – Decision

The final stage of the SMC visa application is Immigration New Zealand’s decision on your visa application. It can take up to six months for a decision to be made.

The quality and content of your documentary evidence will impact upon the speed at which your application is processed. Inadequate content, information inconsistent with your EOI, or incorrectly completed application forms may result in your application being refused.

If you are intending to apply for the visa while you are in New Zealand and remain in New Zealand while you wait for a decision is made on the application, you need to start the process early as interim visas (New Zealand’s equivalent of a Bridging Visa) are not generally available for residence visa applications. That means that if your New Zealand visa is going to expire and you haven’t received a decision on your SMC application, you will need to leave New Zealand.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I include my family in the SMC visa application?

For your family to be included in the application, you must have included them in your Expression of Interest. If you are invited to apply, you must provide evidence:

  • of your relationship with your partner and dependent children
  • that your partner and dependent children meet the identity, character, health, and English language requirements for this visa (your partner and children over 16 must speak English to the required level or must pay for classes to learn English in New Zealand.

Other requirements

Applicants and their family members will be required to be in “good health” and anyone over the age of 17 will need to be of “good character”.

What conditions are attached to the SMC visa?

If you were awarded points for an offer of skilled employment in Auckland, you must:

  • take up that job within 3 months of arriving in New Zealand;
  • stay in that job for at least 3 months.
  • continue to be paid at or above the level of remuneration for which skilled employment points were awarded to you, for at least 3 months.

You must provide evidence within 5 years of your first day in New Zealand as a resident that you stayed in your skilled employment for at least 3 months.

If you were awarded points for an offer of skilled employment outside Auckland, you must:

  • take up that job within 3 months of arriving in New Zealand
  • stay in that job for at least 12 months.
  • continue to be paid at or above the level of remuneration for which skilled employment points were awarded to you, for at least 12 months.

You must provide evidence within 5 years of your first day in New Zealand as a resident that you stayed in your skilled employment for at least 12 months.

If you were awarded points for your current skilled employment in Auckland, you must:

  • stay in the job for at least 3 months.
  • continue to be paid at or above the level of remuneration for which skilled employment points were awarded to you, for at least 3 months.

You must provide evidence within 5 years of your first day in New Zealand as a resident that you stayed in your skilled employment for at least 3 months.

If you were awarded points for your current skilled employment outside Auckland, you must:

  • stay in that job for at least 12 months.
  • continue to be paid at or above the level of remuneration for which skilled employment points were awarded to you, for at least 12 months.

You must provide evidence within 5 years of your first day in New Zealand as a resident that you stayed in your skilled employment for at least 12 months.

What if I’m not currently working in Skilled Employment in New Zealand or I don’t have a job offer for Skilled Employment in New Zealand?

All applicants who meet the health, character, English language and points requirements but don’t have either skilled employment / an offer of skilled employment in New Zealand or a higher degree obtained in New Zealand will be invited to apply for a “job search” visa. This visa aims to give them the opportunity to find ongoing skilled employment in New Zealand. The visa will last for 12 months and the applicant will not be allowed to bring family members to New Zealand with them on the job search visa.

If the applicant doesn’t find ongoing skilled employment in New Zealand within that 12 month period, the SMC visa application will be refused.

Can I travel in and out of New Zealand once the SMC visa is granted?

Once this visa is granted, you can travel in and out of New Zealand as often as you like until your travel conditions expire.

To travel after that, you’ll need to apply for and be granted either:

  • a Permanent Resident Visa, or
  • a variation of your travel conditions, which would allow you to return to New Zealand at a later date.

Your travel conditions will expire 2 years from the date you first arrive in New Zealand as a resident.

Your visa must also be kept in a valid passport. If your passport expires, you will need to apply to transfer your visa to a new passport before you can travel

If you’re outside of New Zealand when your travel conditions expire, your visa will expire as well.

To find out if you are eligible, try the New Zealand Government  Points Calculator

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