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What jobs provide the best opportunities for obtaining New Zealand residence? (Part 1)


Generally speaking, most people who come to New Zealand either arrive with the intention of settling and becoming permanent residents, or end up falling in love with the country once they’re here and decide to stay however they can.


There are various pathways to applying for residence in New Zealand, but perhaps the most well-known is Skilled Migrant Category. This is the most common (and complicated!) residence category, and it is also the one that the vast majority of migrants aim for.


Apart from Skilled Migrant Category, there are two other dominant categories of residence: Work to Residence Category, and Partnership Category. In this article, I will be addressing Skilled Migrant Category only, since this usually relies on the applicant having an offer of skilled employment. I will discuss Work to Residence Category in Part 2 of this mini blog series.


Skilled Migrant Category


Skilled Migrant Category works on a points-based system. People claim points for a number of employability and capacity building factors, and those who can reasonably claim 160 points are invited to apply for residence.


A substantial number of these points can be made up from claiming an offer of skilled employment in New Zealand, which usually means employment that is classed as Skill Level 1, 2 or 3 on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations, i.e. the ANZSCO.


The sad reality is that, due to these skill level classifications used in the assessment of Essential Skills work visas and Skilled Migrant Category residence applications, plus the ever-increasing difficulty of having your employment recognised as “skilled” by Immigration New Zealand, many migrants now have to consider how their chosen career path will affect their eligibility for visas when deciding whether it is the right career for them. When contemplating a course of study in New Zealand, students now not only have to consider their career prospects, but also how potential job opportunities line up with immigration policy.


Because of this, I have seen people give up their true passion and ambitions for a career that is more “visa friendly”. For instance, picking up a trade when the person really wanted to excel in the field of management. Unfortunately, due to the sheer number of international students graduating with business management qualifications and then going on to do retail and hospitality management jobs in New Zealand, Immigration New Zealand now regularly downgrades these roles and refuses to recognised them as skilled, even though a Retail Manager is technically classed as Skill Level 2 on the ANZSCO. The same thing was happening in the field of aged care up until recently, where Community Support Workers (again classed as Skill Level 2 on the ANZSCO) were being downgraded to Personal Care Assistants or Aged and Disabled Carers.


Basically, whenever Immigration New Zealand notices a large influx of migrants obtaining skilled work visas and residence from particular occupations, it starts coming up with reasons to justify refusing to acknowledge the occupation as skilled – thereby resulting in a reduction in both the number of skilled work visas being given out and residence numbers.


So, what’s the lesson to be learned here? Answer: Try to stay away from jobs that everyone else is doing! If you can, try to differentiate yourself from other migrants and seek employment in uncommon occupations instead. One great example that I’ve shared a few laughs with my colleagues about is the occupation of Shearer. Hardly anyone knows this, but a sheep shearer is actually classed as Skill Level 3 on the ANZSCO and is therefore considered “skilled” for the purpose of obtaining visas, so even sheep shearers can get residence in New Zealand. Who would’ve thought it! There are plenty of shearing jobs around and it’s pretty well paid, so I’d suggest this occupation for anyone who likes handling animals and working on a farm. Another related occupation is that of a Wool Classer. Again, it’s Skill Level 3 and there are industry training opportunities available.


Trades are always good, as well. Interestingly, a lot of hands-on jobs are at least Skill Level 3 or higher on the ANZSCO, so if you enjoy this type of work, I definitely recommend trying to get into one of these jobs. Here are some key examples:


- Baker

- Beauty Therapist

- Butcher

- Chef

- Hairdresser

- Industrial Spraypainter

- Panelbeater (currently in demand with plenty of apprenticeships available)

- Plasterer

- Plastics Technician

- Photographer’s Assistant

- Retail Buyer

- Security Consultant

- Sound Technician

- Welder

- Wood Machinist


Due to a change in the skill level of some occupations, Personal Care Assistants (i.e. caregivers) working in the mental health, disabilities and aged care sectors are also now recognised as skilled. So, if you like to work with people, the care industry is another good choice.


It is important to pursue a career that you enjoy, but it is equally important to consider the immigration implications of your chosen career if securing residence in New Zealand is your primary goal. Some lucky people become eligible to apply for residence within just two or three years of first arriving in New Zealand simply because their chosen profession offers a good market rate of pay and easier opportunities for obtaining long-term visas, e.g. I often see this with young chefs who first studied a diploma in cookery here (giving them points for a recognised qualification under Skilled Migrant Category) and then transitioned into a full-time chef role afterwards.


While we do not wish to discourage anyone from pursuing their passion, it is worth having a think about where this places you in terms of your eligibility for skilled visas, and if it is not ideal, whether you would enjoy any of the jobs that have been mentioned above. You’ll want to take a look at the ANZSCO skill level of the job that you’re considering doing, as well as whether this job is on any of New Zealand’s skill shortage lists (which I will cover in more detail in Part 2). A happy middle ground would be to find a job that you can enjoy AND that offers a smooth pathway towards long-term work visas and residence.


If you are planning your studies in New Zealand and/or need career advice, it is a good idea to see an immigration adviser at least once to help you explore your options. Although we don’t claim to be career advisers, this is an inevitable part of our work, and so most immigration advisers actually have a great pool of knowledge to share when it comes to careers.


Link to ANZSCO v1.3: https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/1220.0Search02013,%20Version%201.3


- Evelyn Dyer, Licensed Immigration Adviser

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