Understanding the ANZSCO skills list and levels

Understanding the ANZSCO skills list and levels

For many migrants, the length of their visa and their ability to stay in NZ is tied to their ANZSCO classification. To obtain a ‘mid skilled’ or ‘higher skilled’ Essential Skills visa, or to be eligible for Skilled Migrant residence, you normally need to show that your job matches a skilled position on the ANZSCO.

So what exactly is the ANZSCO? Officially the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations, the ANZSCO is a statistical tool intended for the analysis of labour market data. In theory, it classifies every single legal occupation in New Zealand and Australia by specialisation and skill level. It was not designed for immigration purposes, but has been adopted by Immigration New Zealand (and Home Affairs in Australia) as a convenient tool to determine whether a migrant is ‘skilled’.

Essentially, there are eight major groups of occupations (e.g ‘Managers’ or ‘Technicians and Trades Workers’) which are then broken down into more specific categories, ending with individual occupations. Each occupation has a skill level assigned to it, ranging from Level 1- being the highest skilled- to Level 5. For an occupation to be skilled, it must involve either technical, management or specialist expertise of some form.

Substantial Match to the ANZSCO

The skill level is all-important to many immigration applications. To obtain residence under the Skilled Migrant category, in most cases you need to show that your job substantially matches an occupation which is deemed skilled i.e. at skill levels 1-3 on the ANZSCO. You also need to show that you are suitably qualified for that occupation, either by formal qualifications or experience.

An immigration officer will compare your position to the tasks that are listed for the occupation you have selected. They must be satisfied that your job is a ‘substantial match’, a concept which is notoriously difficult to define.

In practice, it means that they must take a broad view of your job in the context of the organization and industry you are working in, rather than focusing on ticking off each of the tasks against your job description.

If you are not completing every single one of the tasks listed in a particular ANZSCO occupation, that is not necessarily fatal to your application. In some cases, you may not be doing a certain task because it is assigned to another specialist within your company, or because it is simply not necessary in your particular role.

Consistent guidance from the Immigration and Protection Tribunal has emphasised that the overall skill level is more important than the completion of individual tasks. In our experience, this often needs to be spelt out to immigration officers, many of whom fail to carry out the skill assessment correctly.

However, it is important that your position genuinely requires management, technical or specialist expertise- otherwise, you will have trouble finding a skilled occupation which makes you eligible for residence.

Tips for preparing your application

To maximise your chance of obtaining residence, or a ‘mid-skilled’ work visa, the first step is to carefully research the ANZSCO to ensure you have selected the right occupation.

It is not necessary for the ANZSCO occupation to have the same name as your job title- what matters is that the job you actually perform is a good fit to the overall description. 

Before you submit your application, it is a good idea to check that your job description is sufficiently detailed to capture all of the skilled activities you perform, and speak with an immigration adviser or lawyer if you have any doubts. You may also want to speak to your employer about revising or updating your job description, as it may be too brief or vague to support your visa.

That said, many people also forget that your job description is not the ‘be all and end all’ when it comes to the ANZSCO. There are many other relevant factors which Immigration New Zealand consider, including the size of your organization, your position in the organizational hierarchy, the company’s structure, and the particular industry you work in.

By explaining these aspects from the start of the application, you avoid Immigration New Zealand forming the wrong impression of your job, and incorrectly deeming it to be ‘lower-skilled’.


It is evident that the ANZSCO is a complex creature, often difficult to interpret for Immigration New Zealand, immigration practitioners and migrants themselves. Preparation and research are key to ensuring you select the correct ANZSCO occupation for your job.

If you have doubts about your skill level or have received a letter from Immigration New Zealand which disputes your ANZSCO claim, you should engage an immigration adviser or lawyer to undertake a thorough assessment of your particular job and circumstances.

Our experienced immigration team is able to help with ANZSCO queries, as well as any other immigration queries you may have.

Your Immigration Specialist

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