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The skill level of employment for essential skills work visa holders is currently assessed by using a combination of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSCO) and hourly rate. This is set to be replaced by a new 'pay rate' system for determining skill level and work visa duration.


From 27 July 2020 Immigration New Zealand (INZ) will use a simply remuneration threshold to determine if a job is 'high' or 'low' paid. Whether a job is 'high' or 'low' paid will depend on whether an employee is earning above or below the median wage (currently $25.50 an hour). Remuneration will then be used to determine:

  • How long a work visa will be granted for;
  • If engagement with MSD is required to secure a Skills Match Report; and
  • Whether dependent partners will get work or visitor visas.

The below useful table has been provided by Immigration New Zealand to summarise the different conditions that will attach to 'high' or 'low' paid work visas, from 27 July 2020.

Below median wage (currently $25.50 per hour)

At or above the median wage

Labour market test

Employer needs to engage with MSD and provide a Skills Match ReportEmployer does not need to engage with MSD to provide a Skills Match Report, however the employer will continue to need to make genuine attempts to hire New Zealanders, including advertising for the role and considering New Zealanders

Visa duration

Maximum duration of each visa is 6 months for the next 18 months (i.e. from 10 July 2020- 10 January 2022)

Maximum combined duration of all work visas in jobs paying below the median wage is 3 years at which time holders of this visa will be subject to a stand down period of 12 months

Maximum duration of each visa is 3 years

No maximum combined duration - not subject to stand down

Bringing family who ordinarily reside in New Zealand. Note that anyone currently offshore will be subject to the boarder restrictions currently in place

Support visitor visas for partners (partners can apply for a work visa in their own right)

Support visitor or student visas for dependent children (subject to meeting the minimum income threshold)

Support visitor or work visas for partners

Support visitor or student visas for dependent children (subject to meeting minimum income threshold)

When ANZSCO will still be used

  • Skilled migrant category residence visa assessments;
  • To ensure that the rate of pay for a position is not less than market rate; and
  • To assess whether applicants are suitably qualified for the position, e.g. a Registered Nurse will still need a relevant qualification and professional registration, per the ANZSCO.

Our advice

This is a significant update and it will have an impact on anyone applying for an essential skills work visa going forward. Only applications accepted before 27 July 2020 will be assessed under the current rules.

Our experts

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch with the team.

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