Immigration – raising the bar and narrowing the gate

Willy Sussman, Partner | Tuesday 11 October 2016

​​​​​​​​​​​News headlines from around the world accentuate the desirability of living on a Pacific Island a long way from trouble, where one can enjoy economic prosperity, no corruption and a clean green environment. Housing, at least in Auckland, is not particularly affordable but a new mayor and a new Unitary Plan (allowing for greater intensification) may offer hope.

More New Zealanders are returning home, fewer are leaving and the attractiveness of New Zealand has not been lost on migrants. It is perhaps not surprising that Government today announced changes to New Zealand’s residence programme.

Those affected are primarily people applying to come to New Zealand permanently
​ based on their skills, and parents of New Zealand residents hoping to follow their children here.

People applying for permanent residence based on the Investor Categories and businesses wanting to temporarily relocate staff are not generally affected including: 

  • Migrants applying under the Investor Programme – a streamlined programme that requires:
    • NZ$10m to be invested for 3 years and the migrant to spend at least 44 days in New Zealand during

      2 years, or
    • ​At least NZ$1.5m to be invested for 4 years and the migrant to spend at least 146 days in New Zealand during 3 years.
  • People relocating or seconded to New Zealand on a temporary basis because they have essential skills or are needed for a specific purpose.

Raising the bar for skilled migrants

Skilled migrants make up almost half of the applicants in the residence programme. They go through a two-step process: 

  • Lodging an Expression of Interest ‘claiming’ points they qualify for (from a menu that allocates points to prescribed attributes or qualifications),
  • Lodging an application if they have sufficient points and are invited to apply.

The number of points required for an automatic invitation to apply has been increased from 140 to 160.

Migrants will now almost certainly need to have a job offer in New Zealand (matching their skill) as well as sufficient points from the ‘menu’, where more points are awarded to applicants who: have an offer of employment outside Auckland, are more experienced, are younger and are better qualified.

Narrowing the gate for all migrants

New Zealand sets an annual target of the number of residence approvals. This has been reduced.

If the level of interest in New Zealand continues, an increasing number of approvals will be taken up by categories like the Investor Category. This could create further pressure, raising the bar for skilled migrants.

Gate closed on many parents

Parents of New Zealand residents have been able to come to New Zealand based on their children’s status. This avenue has been ‘temporarily’ closed to new applications.  

While understandable, this may be harsh for both the parents and their children and grandchildren. However, there remain two avenues available to parents: the parent retirement resident visa and the parent and grandparent visitor visa.

If you are considering applying for permanent residence in New Zealand you may well be advised not to delay. Nothing suggests that things are going to get easier. 

Today’s announcements are effective tomorrow, 12 October 2016.


This publication is necessarily brief and general in nature. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.

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