Our Experience with the New Zealand Immigration Process.
The decision to move to New Zealand was very easy for us, actually making it happen, however, was a different matter. We started initial research into options for immigration more than a year before actually moving. If you are serious about attempting to immigrate, temporarily or permanently, then the Immigration New Zealand (INZ) website is your new best friend.
Before I go any further into our experience or what we learned along the way, I want to very clearly state that I am not an immigration advisor and this post is in no way intended to provide immigration counsel.
At the time we started researching neither my husband nor I had a job offer from a New Zealand employer. To be completely honest, this makes the process less certain and more difficult. So, the first place we started was checking to see if our education and work experience in the United States qualified us as having a skill on the New Zealand Skills Shortage Lists. For those that have one of these skills, the immigration process absent a job offer will become easier and have a better chance of success. Unfortunately, neither of us, while well educated and having successful careers going in the States, had a skill falling onto one of these lists.
Absent a job offer, we identified the following as potential paths to immigration for our family:
- Submit an Expression of Interest (EOI), and hope that we scored enough points to be invited to apply for a skilled migrant visa. If you have a skill on one of the shortage lists, you will be significantly more likely to score enough points on this application to receive an invitation to apply for the visa. The points threshold for the EOI applications has very recently been revised and increased to 160 points. An EOI scoring less than this will not be included in the selection pool, and getting into the selection pool won’t guarantee an invitation to apply. You can estimate the points your EOI will score by using the INZ Points Indicator. Unfortunately, even with our educations and work experience, the points indicator did not estimate us as having enough points to make it into the selection pool. This is a good place to note that a law degree from the United States is only considered to be equivalent to a bachelors degree in New Zealand, probably because it is a bachelors degree in New Zealand.
- Apply to New Zealand universities for a post-graduate degree program, and receive a student visa and family stream visas. There is a key point to make here, the partner of a student visa holder pursuing a post-graduate degree is eligible for a partner of a student work visa. If the degree program is a bachelor or less, the partner will only be eligible for a visitor visa and they will not be able to work. Also, a student visa holder will only be allowed to work up to 20 hours a week during term, and full time during school holiday breaks. Upon completing the degree you can apply for a 12 month visa to give you time to find a job in your field.
- Apply for jobs and get a job offer. When reviewing the EOI points indicator we realized that one of us having a job offer would likely increase our points enough to be placed in the selection pool. However, the glitch we discovered with this plan was that New Zealand employers typically specified only applicants with a right to work, i.e. a work visa, already in hand would be considered. It felt like a catch-22, we couldn’t get a work visa without a job offer and we couldn’t get a job offer without a work visa. We were starting to feel stranded, and were planning to pursue the student route as our method of entry. Then, we discovered a fourth visa option.
- Apply for jobs from New Zealand employers on the Accredited Employer list. This is a list of employers who have been granted permission from the New Zealand government to recruit and hire talent from outside of New Zealand, and sponsor Talent Visas for these hires.
It was practically by blind luck that my husband found a job posting from an accredited employer on the website Seek (a jobs website for New Zealand and Australian employers and job seekers). He submitted his application, went through a few rounds of Skype interviews, and before we knew it he had a job offer and we were talking with the immigration advisor hired by the company to complete our visa applications.
Our visas are valid for 30 months, after 24 months we will be eligible to apply for permanent residency, which we intend to do. My husband has the talent work visa, I have a partner work visa, and our daughter has a dependent visitor visa.
So, we identified our path to immigration, then we had to complete the visa applications themselves. We had the assistance of an immigration advisor from my husband’s company, and I do recommend paying an immigration advisor if you want to do this yourself. It is worth the peace of mind to ensure that someone who knows the process inside and out has reviewed your application and ensured you completed it correctly. If you are interested and want a recommendation, send me a message and I can provide the name of an advisor we would have used had one not been provided to us.
The application for the talent visa and accompanying family visa applications was pretty straight forward. The most important things to know are that you have to get a police certificate from the FBI and a medical exam. If you are physically present in the United States you can go through an FBI approved channeler, this is the fastest method. If you are outside the US you must submit your request directly to the FBI, and you must know that this can, and generally does, take up to 12 weeks to process. For New Zealand visa applications the certificates must be less than 6 months old.
The medical exam must be conducted by a New Zealand panel physician, depending on where you live in the US your options might be extremely limited, you might have to travel some distance, and it might be weeks before you can get an appointment. Depending on the visa you are applying for and the length, you may or may not have to get a chest X-Ray as part of your exam. New Zealand is very serious about the medical exam, our applications were referred to medical review because of some standard medications we take. This delayed the approval of our visas by a few weeks and to be honest created a lot of anxiety about whether our applications might be rejected.
Despite the delay in our approvals, once our visas were approved and granted, things moved FAST. This was due in part to my husband having a close at hand start date for his new employer, but also, once you have that visa in hand, you just want to go as fast as you can.
So, that is the tale of the immigration process from our experience. Next post I’ll talk about the logistics of moving our whole lives across an ocean.