As is the case with many other relatively affluent countries, there are many reasons why people might want to immigrate to New Zealand. They might want to be with their close family, such as a spouse; they might want to start a business or come to New Zealand to live and work. New Zealand is a long way from anywhere else, so it makes sense to visit the country first to see what it is like before making a hasty decision to apply to immigrate permanently. Visiting friends or family or as a tourist to New Zealand is relatively easy and is a good way to see the country first hand. New Zealand encourages temporary visitors, as tourism is the country’s largest source of income. You do need to be aware of the visitor visa categories, which are required in advance by all visitors to the country except Australian citizens or Australian permanent residents.
Another common way that people from overseas get a chance to see whether living in New Zealand is really for them is to come to study in a New Zealand college or university or on a working holiday visa. The latter is available to young people from an increasing number of countries for up to 2 years. Note that neither a student visa nor a working holiday visa by itself is a confirmed route to immigration to New Zealand, but any work experience in New Zealand can count for points if applying later for a residence visa under the Skilled Migrant Category. More importantly, many New Zealand employers prefer applicants for jobs who have had some New Zealand work experience and this can help if you are applying for a job after you finish studying or working on a working holiday visa.
New Zealand also issues temporary work visas for limited periods (usually up to2 years maximum) to people who have been accepted for employment in New Zealand on a temporary work contract. This type of visa is only granted in occupations in which no New Zealand citizen or permanent resident can be found, but again is a good way of experiencing life in the country and gaining local work experience which could lead to permanent immigration later on.
Immigration Visa Categories – The Skilled Migrant Category
Note that New Zealand immigration visa regulations do change from time to time, especially after a change of government or a change in government policy. It can take several months to process a visa for immigration purposes so it is important to keep a close eye on the New Zealand Immigration Service to ensure that you are following the latest procedure.
The most common visa category for immigration is the ‘Skilled Migrant Category.’ This is the category which you need to apply for if you have an offer of a job, or if you think that you could get a job for which you are qualified. Those who want to start a business or want to join their close family relatives would need to apply under different immigration categories.
The Points System
New Zealand uses a points system for selecting applicants for the Skilled Migrant Category. You can use the government’s website to make a self-evaluation to see whether you have a chance of successfully applying. The points system changes from time to time as the number of migrants the country needs, especially the types of occupations needed changes as well as political changes that occur when governments change hands. Basically, the way the point’s system works is that you gain points for different criteria such as educational qualifications, age, work experience, normal occupation, assets, etc. You have to carefully look through the criteria to assess how many points you think you have, and then see whether it matches or is higher than the cut off point at the time you are assessing your points. The current cut-off point at the time of writing this article is 160 points.
If you have done a self- evaluation, and think you have 160 points or more, then you can submit an “Expression of Interest” (EOI) to the New Zealand Immigration Service (NZIS). You can do this electronically. You can submit an EOI even if you don’t have 160 points, but it is unlikely that anything will come of it unless the cut-off point is reduced at some later stage.
Once your EOI has been submitted, it joins all the other EOIs submitted by other hopeful applicants. The officials at the NZIS check through your EOI and then select those who they think genuinely meet the criteria for Skilled Migrant Category immigration. They may then send you an “Invitation to Apply” (ITA). You have 6 months from the date you receive an ITA to make a formal application for a residence visa for immigration to New Zealand. If successful, you and your dependent family members will be granted a permanent residence visa. This visa is not tied to a particular job and you are free to live and work wherever you please. It takes five years of residence in New Zealand before you can apply for citizenship.