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Work visa applicants could finally have skills recognised with latest Immigration NZ review

New Zealand dairy work visa holders are set to be given the long awaited respect they deserve, with Immigration New Zealand’s announcement of a review and pending changes to ANZSCO 841512. This comes as welcome news to our team here at The Regions, after years of us calling for this.

ANZSCO 841512 is the code that currently governs the majority of dairy farm work visas and assigns the crude term “low skilled” to temporary work visas. In its current form, ANZSCO 841512, acts as a block to residence for many applicants and stops them having their true skills and experience recognised. Something The Regions has taken a proactive stand against since we first launched our Stand Against the Stand Down campaign in September 2018.

These pending changes to the current ANZSCO 841512 code relate to applicants being able to attain longer work visas which likely includes family reunification. In some cases, this will provide slightly more realistic access to Skilled Migrant Category Residence. Ben De’Ath, founder and Managing Director of The Regions, says these are changes that regional New Zealand and its communities desperately need.

“We have been advocating for a more realistic understanding of immigration and how it effects the dairy sector for many years now. So, we would like to congratulate Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) for looking into this and for beginning to make positive change.”

Future policy changes for work visas

Based on the information shared with The Regions, we are now able to make the following educated guesses on how future policy for the dairy sector might look:

(Please note: the farm worker should not be earning less than NZD25.00 per hour for skilled visa rules to apply)

Value accommodation: For an applicant to attain a skilled 36month visa in his or her fourth year of work on a New Zealand dairy farm, they are likely to need to earn $25 per hour, including the value of their house. We urge farmers to correctly value farmworker accommodation so that it truly recognises the value and skill of your staff and the packages paid to them.

Family reunification: Based on the information we have been exposed to from Immigration New Zealand, such a visa would allow dairy farm workers to have their family (children up to 18 years of age) living, working and studying with them in New Zealand.

Skilled Migrant Visas: Our best guess is that New Zealand residence under the Skilled Migrant Category becomes a little more attainable for people who are in mid-level positions on dairy farms. It will be very welcome news if it is no longer mandatory for migrant dairy farm workers to be classified under ANZSCO 121313 when applying for the Skilled Migrant Category.

Staying informed

The review of ANZSCO 841512 means it is vital that New Zealand dairy employers are aware of the likely upcoming changes to help prevent surprises and misunderstandings when staff express matters relating to these government driven wage alterations.

“New Zealand dairy farm staff need to be aware that farmers will never give a pay rise without it being justified,” Ben says. “However, we encourage open conversation about what skills, responsibilities and development can be undertaken by staff in order to justify a $25 per hour salary including house value.”

Skilled migrant application

Our best guess on how future requirements would look for a hypothetical Skilled Migrant Category Residence applicant working on a dairy farm is:

  • Skilled Migrant Category Points: 160
  • Pearson English: 58 or International English Language Testing System:  6.5
Our best predictions on ways to obtain these Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) points:
Hourly Rate:

$25 per hour job = 50 SMC points


  • Industry Training Organisation (ITO) Level 4 or 5 = 40 SMC points
  • NZQA recognised university qualification = 50 SMC points10 further SMC points for a NZ qualification (this applies only if it is a bachelor’s degree or higher, studied in NZ)
  • Working outside Auckland = 30 SMC points

Work Experience:

  • Skilled work experience: 2 years = 10 SMC points
  • Skilled work experience: 4 years = 20 SMC points
  • Skilled work experience: 6 years = 30 points
  • Skilled work experience: 8 years = 40 SMC points
  • Skilled work experience: 10 years = 50 SMC points
  • 1 + year of NZ work experience = 10 SMC points


  • 20-39 = 30 SMC pts
  • 40-44 = 20 SMC pts
  • 45-49 = 10 SMC pts
  • 50-54 = 5 SMC pts.
“It is important to note that we are not yet sure if previous ANZSCO 841512 work experience will be deemed skilled within the new definition,” says Ben. “However, we are told that ANZSCO 841512

 is expected to be on the exceptions list very soon, meaning those eligible for Skilled Migrant Resident Visas will be in line with other recently re-assessed occupations.”

ANZSCO Occupations

Immigration New Zealand will treat occupations on the exceptions list differently if they meet the following criteria:

  • Low-skilled: Skill level 4 to 5 in ANZSCO version 1.2
  • Skilled: Skill level 1 to 3 in ANZSCO version 1.3
  • Median income: the visa applicant earns at least the New Zealand median income, currently NZD $25 per hour.

In these circumstances, Immigration New Zealand will treat the occupation as if it is ANZSCO skill level 1 to 3.

Impact of changes to Skilled Migrant Category

These likely changes to the Skilled Migrant Category would:

  • Remove the unrealistic full autonomy management requirement from assessment
  • Remove the ANZSCO “low skilled” terms (currently extremely insulting to the skilled workers)
  • Remove the expectation of $37.50 per hour for ANZSCO skill level 4 or 5 roles to be deemed skilled
However, applicants must still:
  • Pass a fairly high level of English
  • Meet all health and character requirements
  • Meet 160 points on the SMC points calculator.
Here at The Regions, we will continue to update all parties to confirm these changes in the coming weeks. However, as always, our Key Account Managers and Licensed Immigration Advisors

 are here to help and discuss your staff needs with you.


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