December 4, 2020

Essential Skills visas are changing on 27 July

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is making some changes to the Essential Skills visas effective from 27 July 2020. These changes include using a median wage threshold to decide how long someone can stay on an Essential Skills visa and their options to support family.  

According to a notification issued last week, INZ will now use median-wage threshold as an indicator of skill instead of current system of using a job’s ANZSCO skill level and the salary to assess if someone is low, mid or high skilled.

Applicants will be assessed as either at or above the median wage, or below the median wage using the hourly rate of $25.50. These changes will apply for those who apply or reapply for an Essential Skills visa from 27 July 2020.

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The eligibility to support family by Essential Skills visa-holders is also being widened.

If applicant earns less than the median wage, they will be able to i) support their partner for a visitor visa only, not a work visa, and ii) support visitor or student visas for dependent children, as long as they meet/exceed the current annual income threshold of $43,322.76.

Duration of Essential Skills visas is also being changed.

There is no longer a 5 year visa for higher-skilled jobs. Those earning at or above the median wage can be granted a visa for 3 years, according to INZ.

If you earn below the median wage, you can be granted a visa for 6 months if you apply between 10 July 2020 and 10 January 2022.

The maximum combined duration of all work visas for jobs paying below the median wage is 3 years.

Visa-holders will be subject to a stand-down period of 12 months if they have been in New Zealand for 3 years on an Essential Skills visa for work, and i) assessed as lower-skilled if they apply before 27 July 2020, and ii) that pays below the median wage if applying from 27 July 2020.

The stand-down applies even if they spend time in New Zealand on another visa or if they are waiting for INZ to process a Skilled Migrant Visa application.

There are some changes for employers also when they are recruiting someone.

Employers will need to provide Skills Match Reports (SMR) if the role they are recruiting for is paid below median wage jobs.

If they are hiring someone at or above the median wage, they will still need to show they have made genuine attempts to hire New Zealanders, including advertising for the role and considering New Zealanders.

Expressions of interest are currently suspended due to Covid 19.