Here is an overview of what has changed.

SMC has undergone a complete overhaul, resulting in a new points calculator. Here is a brief breakdown:

  • Introduced two remuneration thresholds in order to be eligible for Residence under the SMC Category
  • Salary at or above $23.49 per hour, equating to $48,859 per year for jobs at ANZSCO skill levels 1, 2 and 3
  • Salary at or above $35.24 per hour, equating to $73,299 per year for job at any ANZSCO level or no ANZSCO match
  • Bonus 20 points for high salary at or above $46.98 per hour, equating to $97,718 per year.
  • More points available for skilled work experience only
  • Bonus 10 points for skilled work experience of 12 months or more in New Zealand.
  • Points for recognised level 9 or 10 post-graduate qualifications (Master’s degrees, Doctorate) increased to 70 points.
  • 30 Points now for people aged 20 – 39 years.
  • Points for partners’ qualifications is only awarded if the qualification is recognised level 7 or higher.

Points Removed

Points no longer available for: employment, work experience and qualifications in identified future growth areas; qualifications in areas of absolute skills shortage and for close family in New Zealand.

Essential Skills Category

Essential Skills work visa category has also undergone significant changes and below is the brief overview:

Introduction of remuneration bands to help assess the skill level of employment offered to Essential Skills visa applicants




$35.24+ per hour



$19.97 – $35.24 per hour



Less than $19.97 per hour



The skill band determines the maximum visa length and whether your partner or dependent children will be able to apply for visas on the basis of their relationship

Skill band

Maximum visa length

Maximum number of visas

Eligible to support partner/child visa


5 years




3 years




1 year

Up to 3 years


Note: After three years, lower-skilled workers will need to spend 12 consecutive months outside New Zealand before they can be granted a further Essential Skills visa to undertake lower-skilled work.

Partners and children of Essential Skills workers in lower-skilled employment can stay in New Zealand for existing visa holders if they already hold a visa based on their relationship.

Essential Skills visa holders who are undertaking lower-skilled work and previously held a student visa can support visas for their partner or dependent children if (a) they held a student visa which allowed them to support a partner for a work visa or a dependent child for a student visa (b) they held a post-study work visa based on that student visa, and (c) they supported their partner or dependent child for a visa based on their relationship while holding a post-study work visa.

These are major changes that will most definitely have flow-on effects across multiple industries especially farming, retail, hospitality and healthcare. However, for any change to take place, there will always be a rough transition period.

Attracting high skills

The government’s goal seems to be clear – attract migrant workers with high levels of skill and experience, who may not necessarily have a formal qualification but have much more work and life experience, and therefore earn higher salaries and bring in migrants to fill important skill shortages.