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The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has completed its annual review of two of the Essential Skills in Demand (ESID) Lists – the Long Term Skill Shortage List (LTSSL) and the Immediate Skill Shortage List (ISSL).

The Ministry regularly reviews the ESID lists to ensure they meet the changing needs of the labour market, and to preserve opportunities for New Zealanders.

If an occupation is on a shortage list, work visa applications for positions in that occupation from suitably qualified and experienced migrants are not subject to an individual labour market test. A labour market test means that an employer must demonstrate that no suitable New Zealanders are available to fill or be trained for each individual position.  The lists help provide certainty for employers and potential migrants, and are a useful indicator to potential migrants of skill shortages in New Zealand.

Long Term Skill Shortage List

The LTSSL identifies occupations that have an absolute (sustained and ongoing) shortage of skilled workers both globally and throughout New Zealand.  Migrants who gain employment in one of these occupations may be granted a LTSSL Work to Residence or an Essential Skills work visa. Migrants applying for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category may gain bonus points towards their application if they have an offer of employment or work experience in an area of absolute skill shortage identified on the LTSSL.

The outcomes of the review of the LTSSL are to:

Remove five occupations

Forest Scientist
Petroleum Engineer
Renal Medicine Specialist

Retain two occupations that were included in the review

Chemical Engineer
Materials Engineer

Submissions to add four occupations (Hairdresser, Motorcycle Mechanic, Registered Nurse (Mental Health), and Sports Coach or Instructor) to the LTSSL have been declined.

Immediate Skill Shortage List

The ISSL identifies occupations that have an immediate shortage of skilled workers either throughout New Zealand or in certain regions. Migrants wishing to work in occupations on the ISSL may be granted work visas under Essential Skills instructions if they meet the specified qualifications and/or experience requirements.

The outcomes of the review of the ISSL are to:

Add 12 occupations

Accountant (General) (a)
Carpenter (b)
Carpenter and Joiner (b)
Fibrous Plasterer (b)
Joiner (b)
Midwife (b)
Motor Mechanic (General) (b)
Panelbeater (b)
Roof Plumber (c)
Roof Tiler (c)
Solid Plasterer (b)
Vehicle Painter (b)

(a) only for the Auckland/Upper North Island, Wellington and Canterbury/Upper South Island regions
(b) for all regions of New Zealand
(c) only for the Auckland/Upper North Island, Waikato/Bay of Plenty, Canterbury/Upper South Island and Otago/Southland regions

Remove five occupations

Dental Technician
Medical Laboratory Technician (Phlebotomy and Histology Technicians)
Pharmacy Technician
Poultry Farmer

Retain five occupations that were included in the review

Metal Casting Trades Worker (Foundry Moulder)
Registered Nurse (Aged Care)
Resident Medical Officer

Submissions to add Hair or Beauty Salon Manager to the ISSL have been declined.

Timing of changes

The ESID List changes will take effect in February 2018.  Further work is currently being carried out to review the requirements which migrants need to satisfy to apply for a work visa using the skill shortage lists. This includes a review of qualifications in association with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, and some other changes to ensure that the requirements for using the lists are appropriate for the shortages.

Other immigration options

If an occupation is not on a skill shortage list this does not mean that migrants cannot come to New Zealand. Other immigration options are available for employers and prospective migrants. These include:

Essential Skills Work Visa – subject to an employer demonstrating that they have tried to recruit New Zealanders for the position and been unsuccessful

Essential Skills Work Visa

Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa – facilitating recruitment of skilled workers from overseas where the salary is at least NZ$55,000 per annum. This option provides a pathway to residence.

Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa

Essential Skills – Approval in Principle – where a number of migrants are being sought

Approval in Principle

Skilled Migrant Category – under which migrants can apply for residence in New Zealand

Skilled Migrant Category

The Canterbury Skills and Employment Hub can facilitate employment of New Zealanders in Canterbury, and if there are no suitable applicants, can facilitate visa applications for migrant workers. Also, the Canterbury Skill Shortage List contains some occupations in shortage for the Canterbury rebuild (in addition those on the ISSL and LTSSL).

Canterbury Skills and Employment Hub

Other matters

The Essential Skills in Demand Lists are reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that the Ministry’s policy is flexible and responsive to changing economic and labour market conditions.  As part of the reviews, information is gathered from submissions made by external stakeholders and this is considered alongside economic, labour market, immigration and other relevant data.  It is important that the lists reflect genuine skill shortages so New Zealanders are not disadvantaged in seeking employment and training.

You can test whether an occupation is on any of the shortage lists by using the skill shortage list checker. This provides information and the requirements for each of the lists.

Skill shortage list checker

The Ministry expects to commence the next ESID review in April 2018.


-Immigration New Zealand