The main residence pathway to attract skilled talent to New Zealand is the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC). 

With members of our team having previously worked as SMC case officers within Immigration New Zealand (INZ), we have invaluable first-hand experience, making us perfectly placed to advise on, and represent clients for, any SMC application, no matter how complex.


Applying for Skilled Migrant residency involves a two stage process


  • The first stage involves preparing and submitting an initial Expression of Interest (EOI) online, in which it is necessary to provide details about yourself, your health and character, your employment, your qualifications, your work experience and your family. This is submitted into a selection pool, with INZ having a draw every second Wednesday. If selected, INZ will review the information provided at face value, and if all criteria appear to be met, you will be invited to apply for residence.


  • You then have four months to submit a paper application, including various mandatory documents and other supporting documents to prove the claims made in the EOI. An INZ case officer will then verify the claims made and the documentation provided and if satisfied that all criteria are met, they will make a recommendation to approve the grant of residence. This recommendation then goes through a quality check process, and if that is also approved, residence visas will be granted.

The key criteria that must be met for an Invitation to Apply to be issued and for a SMC residence application to ultimately be approved, include:


  • Meeting a specific point threshold (presently set at 160 points or more)
    • In order to reach that threshold, most candidates will need to have an offer of skilled employment and hold a recognised qualification, although extensive work experience in a skilled role may be sufficient in lieu of qualification points
    • For employment to be determined "skilled", for the award of points, at a bare minimum it must be offering a pay rate equivalent to the median wage or higher, and sit at a certain skill level. Lower skilled jobs may also qualify if remunerated at a rate at least 50% higher than the median wage. INZ determine occupational skill level utilising the occupation framework found on the Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO).
  • Meet health and character criteria
  • Demonstrate a certain level of English ability. It is mandatory for the principal applicant to meet English at a certain level, while secondary applicants (partner and children over 14) must meet a lower threshold of English, or alternatively can opt out if they agree to pre-purchase English tuition instead

The above is a very brief overview of the category. There are many additional requirements, restrictions and variables that apply depending on individual circumstances, and we specialise in advising clients on those variables and how to best apply them to the circumstances of our clients.  There is much more to the process, and we would be happy to expand upon these points when discussing your proposed instructions.

How Saunders & Co can add value:

  • We will provide an initial, no obligation review of you and your family’s circumstances to review whether SMC is the best residence pathway for you, advise who is best placed to be the principal applicant, and determine whether you meet the general eligibility criteria

  • We will advise you on any criteria that aren’t met and what steps you would need to take in order to meet those criteria, including reviewing and advising employers on employment documentation and statutory employment obligations

  • For those emigrating to New Zealand, we will advise on temporary visa options to facilitate moving to New Zealand while a residence application is in process

  • We will prepare each stage of the process and be your point of contact for INZ throughout

  • We will respond to, and present submissions to INZ on any concerns raised during the processing of the application

  • We can represent you for an appeal to the Immigration Protection Tribunal on potentially incorrect decisions received from INZ

For immediate assistance from our team

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