South Island contribution visa - Work to residence update

While many of the aspects of this visa were as we expected, some things were quite different. As it is so new, even INZ are not sure about how things will go. Information from INZ Christchurch's Branch manager indicates that how INZ apply the instructions may change depending on how many people apply and so on. There is no cap on applicants, but the expectation that around 1600 people should be eligible. If the actual number of applicants is less than this then INZ may make kinder assessments of applications later on. Of course this also implies that if more people apply than expected, the assessments will be tougher. 

One of the big issues is around the discretion to make an exception to instructions for applicants who have less than 5 years experience working in the South island. Even though INZ are able to approve an application that doesn't quite meet the 5 year requirement, this was clarified to mean not meeting it by a could of weeks not a couple of years.

The SI contribution Visa's requirements state that you must have 5 years' experience of working in the South Island on an Essential Skills Visa between May 22 2012 and May 22 2017. 

Even though this visa closes in May 2018, it is not possible to count experience after 22 may 2017 for the required 5 years. There is a small amount of discretion allowed to make an exception for people who don't quite meet this criteria, but the INZ Branch Manager has said that if an applicant was not working on an Essential skills visa at 22 May 2012 in the South Island, then the application is not likely to be accepted.

So for example if you were granted an essential skills visa starting on 10 June 2012 (3 weeks short of 5 years) and you have been working in the South Island continually on an Essential skills visa since then, INZ have the discretion to approve your visa, and it would definitely be worth applying.

The other thing that can make your application stronger is if you have really been making a contribution to the South Island. If your work is really in demand and skilled and in an industry that is a big part of the South island economy, then it may be more possible to make a successful application, even if you don't meet the 5 year requirement. You still do need to be close to 5 years though, even in this case.

Last chance visa?

For many applicants this visa will represent their last chance for residence in New Zealand. For some people it may be worth applying on the chance that it may succeed. This is usually not a path that we would recommend, but in this case it may be the best course of action for some people.

If you are working in a job on an Essential skills visa now and:

  • You will not likely be making more than $48,856 in the near future
  • The job is lower skilled level - ANZSCO level 3, 4 or 5
  • You have been working in the South Island for more than 4.5 years
  • You are working in an industry that is valuable to the South Island [e.g. dairy farming, tourism, construction, horticulture, etc]

then it may be worth taking a chance. The reasoning behind this is that even though you don't meet the criteria for the SI contribution visa, you won;t meet the criteria for the SMC Residence visa and most likely won't meet the updated criteria for the Essential skills work visa changes that are scheduled in August. The SI Contribution visa is a once in a lifetime chance, and even if you fail you will still have your original visa until that runs out.