New Zealand Government limits residency visas available

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New Zealand Government limits residency visas available

Significant changes have been made to the eligibility criteria and number of residency visas available under the New Zealand Residence Program.  The changes are effective from 12 October 2016 and will make it harder for some migrants to gain residency.

In an effort to manage the increased demand for residence visas, the overall target range for residence approvals for the next two years has been reduced to 85,000-95,000 (down from 90,000-100,000).

The specific changes made to the eligibility criteria changes include:

  • Raising the number of points required for residence from 140 to 160 points under the Skilled Migrant Category (“SMC”);
  • Tightening up of English language requirements;
  • Reducing the number of places for the capped family categories to 2000 per year; and
  • Temporarily closing the Parent Category.


Expressions of interest made under the SMC are assessed on a points based system.  Previously, Expressions of Interest with 140 points or more, or 100 points or more when the applicant had a job offer in New Zealand were eligible for selection.  In order to increase the overall skill level of permanent migrants, the point threshold has been raised to 160 points.

Changes have also been made to the way SMC applicants are able to evidence that they meet the English language requirements.

Ultimately the criterion now requires more formal evidence and testing.  Citizenship of an English speaking country will no longer be sufficient evidence in itself, as applicants will have to show that they have 5 or more years of work or education in the English speaking country.

The number of places for the capped family categories is being reduced from 5,500 to 2,000 per year.  As a result of this the Parent Category will be temporarily closed.  No new Expressions of Interest will be selected from the Parent Category Pool from 12 October 2016.  It is expected that selections from this category will resume in 2018 or when there are further places available.

If you or your company will be affected by these changes and need any advice or assistance in understanding how these changes may impact you, please contact us.