English Language Requirements


The majority of migrants with professional, tertiary or trade qualifications apply for residence under the General Skills Category as applying for residence under this category is quicker, more cost effective and the outcome more predictable than applying for residence under the Business Categories.

The General Skills Category uses a `points-based system' to determine an applicant's eligibility for residence.

The "Principal Applicant" (the main applicant) must meet the "passmark" as set by the New Zealand Immigration Service (NZIS).

The passmark may change on a weekly basis. The passmark had remained static at 25 points for several years but on 1 November 1999 the passmark was reduced to 24 points in an attempt by the New Zealand Government to attract more migrants.

Also since March 2000 the General Skills Category policy has become more flexible so that if you are awarded between 19 to 23 points (inclusive) you will be issued with a 6-month work visa (or work permit if you are already in New Zealand) to enable you to come to New Zealand and obtain a job offer for which you will be awarded 5 additional points and thereby residence.

Points are awarded for the Principal Applicant's age, qualifications (& spouse's qualifications), work experience, job offer, settlement funds and family sponsorship.

We have summarised this points system in a Points Table.

Allocation of points under General Skills Category is structured so that the majority of applicants aged in their 20's to early 30's applying for residence under this category will need a New Zealand job offer in order to meet the passmark.

The Principal Applicant must also have an English language background or pass the
International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test in order to be considered for residence.

Please refer to Qualifications to see if your profession requires compulsory registration in New Zealand before you can apply for residence and for NZIS policy regarding qualifications generally.

NZIS are taking 6 to 12 months to process offshore General Skills Category applications.

Depending on the complexity of your application NZIS are taking 3 to 9 months to process applications lodged within New Zealand.

As our New Zealand associates are members of the New Zealand Association for Migration & Investment ('NZAMI') we have access to the fast-track service offered by NZIS Christchurch should you wish to lodge your residence application whilst you are in New Zealand. Contact us before you leave for New Zealand to make arrangements to use this service.

This exclusive fast-track service cuts the processing time for your General Skills Category residence application to just one month and to just one week or less for your Family Category application (processing times may differ depending on the particulars of each application & NZIS work load).

Points Table


Applicants must attain a minimum of ten points for qualifications to be approved under this category

Qualification(s) acceptable to NZIS

10 - 12

Additional 2 points for a qualification that is recognised for points, except a qualification gained with NZODA assistance



Work Experience

Applicants must attain a minimum of one point for work experience to be approved under this category unless they have a NZ qualification

2 years
4 years
6 years
8 years
10 years
12 years
14 years
16 years
18 years
20 years

Offer of Employment

If you have a job offer (the job does not need to be relevant to your qualification) then your work experience does not need to be relevant to your qualification.


18 - 24 years
25 - 29 years
30 - 34 years
35 - 39 years
40 - 44 years
45 - 49 years
50 - 55 years
Principal applicants aged 56 years and older cannot apply under this category.





Maximum points for settlement factors

Settlement Funds

$ 100 000
$ 200 000

Spousal Qualifications

Qualification(s) acceptable to NZIS

Family Sponsorship

Sponsorship by a close family member

New Zealand Work Experience

2 years






1 - 2






English Language Requirements

International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

Principal Applicant

If you are the Principal Applicant and do not have an 'English language background' then you must show a minimum band score of 5 for each of the four components of the IELTS General Module.

Please note: The Minister of Immigration has recently announced that as from 1 July 2001 the English language requirements will be relaxed. From that date an applicant will only be required to have a average band score of 5 across all of the 4 components e.g. an applicant who scores 4,5,5,6 will meet the new English language requirements.

IELTS was developed by the Australian authorities in conjunction with Cambridge University as a means to assess a person's English language ability. If you obtain a Level 5 pass then you will be considered as a 'moderate user' of English. In comparison to enter university in New Zealand an applicant must gain a Level 7 pass in the more difficult Academic Module of the test.

The General Module test consists of four parts, including:

(i) Listening (30 minutes)
(ii) General training reading (60 minutes)
(iii) General training writing (60 minutes)
(iv) Speaking (10 - 15 minutes)

A brief outline of what to expect in the speaking module is as follows:

Phase 1: You introduce yourself (1 - 2 minutes)

Phase 2: Extended discourse (3 - 4 minutes) - In which, for example you could talk about your family life or a topic such as travelling by air, style of architecture in your home country

Phase 3: Elicitation (3 - 4 minutes) - During this phase the examiner would elicit information from you, such as your likes and dislikes, your opinions, attitudes and values

Phase 4: Speculation and attitudes (3 - 4 minutes) - During this time you would be encouraged to speak about academic and vocational interests and talk about future plans

Phase 5: Conclusion (1 minute) - Interview would be concluded.

In New Zealand you can sit the IELTS test at Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland and also at the University of Auckland.

If you are overseas you should contact the nearest branch of the British Council who will arrange an IELTS test for you.

Non-Principal Applicant

On the 30 November 1998 the New Zealand Immigration Service (NZIS) abolished the NZ$20,000.00 English language bond.

Non-Principal Applicants applying for residence under the General Skills Category (i.e. partners and dependant children 16 years and over) who do not meet the English language background or obtain a minimum band score of 5 for each of the four components of the IELTS General Module can now qualify for residence by pre-purchasing English language training (English for speakers of other languages- 'ESOL').

Training costs NZ$1,700 to NZ$6,650 depending on English language ability and must be completed within 3 years (or 3 1/2 years if paid offshore) otherwise the costs are forfeited to the Crown.

The English language requirements for Principal Applicants applying under the General Skills Category remains the same (see above) i.e. if the Principal Applicant does not pass the IELTS test then the application cannot be accepted.

Work Permit Holders

Work Permit holders who qualify for residence on all other grounds (i.e. have an acceptable qualification and enough points to meet the automatic pass mark) and are currently employed and the language of employment is English and the employment is relevant to the qualification for which points are awarded and have been in New Zealand for one year can now qualify by pre-purchasing ESOL training (i.e. they do not have to pass IELTS).

English Speaking Background

Here are some examples of an acceptable English background:

Completed all primary education and at least three years of secondary education at schools using English as the medium of instruction; or

Completed at least five years of secondary education at schools using English as the medium of instruction.

Completed a course of at least three years duration leading to the award of a tertiary qualification at institutions using English as the medium of instruction.



If you are applying for New Zealand residence as the Principal Applicant under the General Skills Category you must have a qualification and it must be acceptable to the New Zealand Immigration Service (NZIS).

(Professional Sports Coaches, Ministers of Religion and Information Technology (IT) Specialists please refer to the relevant paragraph below).

The following is a summary of the qualifications acceptable to NZIS:

Qualifications Table & List of Recognised Qualifications

The Principal Applicant must obtain a minimum of 10 points to be considered for residence under the General Skills Category.

A qualification will be awarded points if the qualification occupies a category and level on the NZIS Qualifications Table or if the Principal Applicant has been awarded full or provisional registration by a New Zealand organisation required by law to give occupational registration (such as registration as a teacher) and the registration involves an assessment that their overseas qualification is comparable to a New Zealand qualification that is included on the List of Recognised Qualifications.

If the institution that issued your qualification is not listed in List of Recognised Qualifications or you are not registered as described above then you must have your qualification assessed by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority ('NZQA').

Your application cannot be lodged until NZQA have issued either an Interim Assessment Report or a Qualifications Assessment Report or you are registered in New Zealand in your profession as described above.

New Zealand Qualifications

If you who have an acceptable New Zealand qualification will receive two additional points. To qualify for additional points applicants must not have received NZODA funding.

Spouse or Partner's Qualification

You will be awarded up to two additional points for an acceptable spouse qualification.

Compulsory Registration

If you are claiming points for a qualification in an occupation for which registration is required by law in New Zealand then you must show:

1. Acceptable evidence of probationary/full New Zealand registration; or
2. An offer of employment (for which points have been awarded), in an occupation that:
   (a) does not require registration; and
   (b) is assessed as relevant to the qualification for which points are claimed.

The following are examples of occupations where compulsory registration is required:

Architects, Chiropractors, Clinical Dental Technicians, Dental Technicians, Dentists, Dieticians, Electricians, Electrical Service Technician, Environmental Health Officers, Lawyers, Line Mechanics, Medical Laboratory Technologists, Medical Practitioners, Medical Radiation Technologists, Midwives, Nurses, Enrolled Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Optometrists, Dispensing Opticians, Pharmacists, Physiotherapists, Plumbers, Gas Fitters and Drainlayers, Podiatrists, Psychologist (only if you are employed in state services or in a licensed institution under the Medical Health Act), Real Estate Agents, Teachers, Veterinarians.

You can only obtain points for one of your qualifications i.e. if you have a Masters degree you will obtain 12 points only and not 10 points for your Bachelors degree as well.

Professional Sports Coaches, Ministers of Religion and Information Technology (IT) Specialists

It is not essential for you to have a qualification occupying a category and level on the Qualifications Table in order to apply for residency under the General Skills Category if you are from one of the above professions.

However you should have some sort of qualification relevant to your profession, have relevant work experience and have a relevant New Zealand job offer.


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