Most of the clients we see every day are hoping to gain residence and settle permanently in New Zealand. Most of them had heard of the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) of residence, the most common work-based residence pathway in New Zealand.
Unfortunately, of all of the people I talk to on this point, only about half are in skilled employment that would allow them to apply for SMC residence. The other half often believe they are, but based on an assessment of their job against INZ criteria, I am often forced to be the bearer of bad news.
What is skilled employment?
INZ consider skilled employment to be “employment that requires specialist, technical or management expertise” gained through work experience, qualifications relevant to the employment, or both (SM7.10). In deciding what employment is skilled, they rely heavily on ANZSCO, a classification system that covers most types of employment.
In some cases, the question of whether your work is skilled is pretty straightforward. Brain surgeon? It’s likely you need a bit of skill to do that job. CEO of a big company? They don’t hire just anyone to do that. Supermarket cashier? Now that your job is replaceable with a machine, I’m afraid that just won’t cut the mustard. Boot polisher, chimneysweep, milkman? Not considered skilled in the 21st century.
But there are a number of jobs where the line differentiating skilled from unskilled is harder to determine. This is often applicable in middle management situations. Is the manager of a food court takeaway shop in skilled work? What about the head of department in a supermarket? If you are in charge of managing the staff in a restaurant but the owner controls all financial decisions, does that count?
In these more contentious situations, it’s important to be clearheaded and realistic in assessing your job against the relevant criteria. If your job is in management, you need to ask yourself: do I control the running of this business? By this I mean:
- Do you decide when advertising needs to happen and what form that should take?
- If you are unhappy with a supplier, are you able to change to a different one?
- Can you fire a staff member if you have cause, and hire a replacement without consulting anyone?
- Can you decide (for example) that every second Thursday, people wearing blue get a discount on your goods or services?
- Do you know how much money the business has, and are you able to earmark funds for large projects (refurbishment of the business, new furniture etc)?
- Can you change the business’s physical layout if you want to?
In general, if you answer no to two or more of the above questions, INZ are unlikely to decide that you are truly controlling the business. Unless you have unique or exceptional circumstances, you likely fall into the ‘grey area’ of not being just another worker, but not autonomously running the business either.
If you’ve read this far and have your doubts about your job meeting the threshold for skilled employment, don’t despair! A lot of people attempt to go straight down the route of “Qualification – Graduate Job Search – Graduate Work Experience – SMC residence”. While this is an attractive option, realistically, things don’t always work out that smoothly. Skilled employment is specifically defined as requiring specialist knowledge or expertise, and when you’re fresh out into the world with a shiny new qualification, it’s unlikely that the first job you land will meet that INZ threshold.
What I suggest you do is assess what career progression there is for you in your role. If you’re currently assistant manager somewhere, when would you be up for a promotion? If you are the manager but don’t handle any finances or marketing, is your employer willing to begin delegating these responsibilities to you? Will there be a time when they step back from the business entirely?
If your employer is content with things the way they are, you might need to consider looking elsewhere to find the job you need. Some jobs don’t have any upward mobility and no matter how hard you work, you won’t be able to reach that position of control. The good news is that there are other, better jobs out there – they just might take a bit of finding.
If you’re still not sure about whether your job is considered skilled, feel free to contact us to book some time. We can assess your individual situation and give you an indication of whether or not you’re in the right job for residence. Email through the contact page or call the office on (03) 942 9234.
Clare van Bohemen Hunter - Immigration Adviser #201400113