Work Visas

Work Visa policy is going to be overhauled mid-2022, and 'Accredited Employer Work Visa' will be introduced to replace Essential Skills and Work to Residence categories.

New Zealand offers a range of temporary work visa options that allow you to undertake work and supplement the labour force in the country. Choosing the right type of work visa is important as it can influence your future immigration decisions. Anyone outside New Zealand cannot apply for a work visa due to ongoing border restrictions.

New Zealand work visas can be ‘employer-assisted’ (restricted to a specific employer, location and a job) or ‘open’ (allowing work for any employer and in any role). Due to the flexibility offered by open work visas, they are a popular choice but are only granted in specific circumstances; such as after study completion or as a result of partnerships with New Zealanders or other work visa holders. ‘Employer-assisted’ work visas are more common and require support from employers.

Here are some key points that are relevant to all New Zealand work visas:

  • ‘Work’ has a specific definition in immigration - it means any activity undertaken for gain or reward and that can be valued in terms of money, i.e. a payment, reward or benefit.
  • Breach of visa conditions is a common problem for ‘employer-assisted’ work visas due to their restricted work requirements
  • Full-time employment is considered to be at least 30 hours of work per week
  • Family members apply for their visas separately  

There are multiple streams of New Zealand work visas within the immigration policy but some are more common than others.

Essential Skills Work Visa

This category closes mid-2022 for new applications. It will be replaced by the new 'Accredited Employer Work Visa'.

This the most common option where the employer does not have accreditation and wants to support a foreign worker for a visa. For this to be granted, an employer must be able to prove that demand for the role could not be met through local labour market (called ‘Labour Market Testing’). In some instances, a labour market test will not be required. This includes the occupation which is included in the ‘Essential Skills in Demand’ lists (as long as you meet the specific requirements of these lists).

o This category has undergone a substantial change mid-2020, notably, the duration of the visa is tied into median wage.

o In October 2020, INZ introduced oversupply and undersupply lists. Essential Skills Work Visas cannot be submitted for roles that have an oversupply of New Zealanders.
For many roles, the assessment of this category can become very complex with multiple policy layers to be considered. ANZSCO (Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations) still plays a vital role in the process; where an immigration officer compares the duties of the role offered to the closest match in ANZSCO and must be satisfied of a ‘substantial match’ – a contentious yet important exercise. This evaluation goes on to influence the market rate and the advertising process as a whole. With so many subtle nuances at play, Essential Skills requires clear presentation and grasp of policy to maximise chances of a timely approval.

o On 16th of July, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi announced a number of policy updates and changes.

If an applicant is being paid below the NZ median wage of $27/hour, the maximum duration of the visa has been increased from 12 months to 24 months. This two year visa is expected to provide certainty to at least 18,000 visa holders. A large number of these workers are employed in the Services sector, specifically in the tourism, hospitality and retail industries.

Employers won’t be required to complete a labour market test where a worker is applying for a visa for a full time role that the worker already holds. These applicants won’t need to provide Employment agreements, medical and police certificates to Immigration New Zealand, if that information has been supplied previously. This will impact approximately 57,000 skilled workers on visas.

The duration of Essential Skills work visas for roles paid the median wage ($27/hour) or above will still be up to three years.

Employers will need to undertake a Labour Market Check for any roles that have been vacant or where the worker will change the region of work.

The fee for the two year Essential Skills Work Visa remains at $440 + an Immigration Levy of $55, a total of $495. INZ is encouraging employers to meet this cost.

The format for the Skills Match Report is updated by Ministry of Social Development and is available from 19th July 2021.

Post Study Work Visa

This visa is the go-to option for many international students after successful completion of their studies. It has open work conditions with provisions for the holder to work for any employer.
The New Zealand Post Study Work Visa is usually granted for a period of one to three years, and requires applicants to provide evidence of completion of their course of study as well as funds of $4200 per year to maintain themselves.
In order to be eligible for this visa, you must have physically studied in New Zealand. This area has been an ongoing concern for many students who are stuck offshore due to New Zealand’s border closure in March 2020, and are looking for ways to study digitally. However, in doing so, would mean they would lose eligibility for Post Study Work Visa despite finishing their New Zealand education in a timely manner.

Partnership Work Visa

If your partner holds (or applies for) a student or work visa, or is a New Zealand citizen/resident, you may be eligible to join them under the New Zealand Family immigration stream.
To be eligible for NZ Partnership Visa:
- You must be coming to New Zealand to join or accompany your partner
- You must prove that you are living in a genuine and stable relationship
- You must both intend to be in New Zealand for the same amount of time
- You must meet health and character requirements
You would be required to prove your partnership to INZ and it must meet the criteria of genuine, stable, living together and credible. The type and duration of the New Zealand partnership visa you are granted can depend on living together evidence you can provide and the visa of the main applicant.
There are provisions within the current border exemption categories for partners of New Zealand citizens and residents to be able to come to New Zealand.

Work to Residence - Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa:

This category closes for new applications on 31st October 2021 - please see our FAQs post in the section below to learn more about these upcoming changes.

The Work to Residence visa category offers visa options for applicants who have met the below and are granted for 30 months:
- Offered employment by an Accredited Employer for at least 24 months
- Are paid a minimum base salary of $79,560 for 40 hours/week (for work less than 40 hours a week, the income threshold must still be met).
- Must work in core area of business activity
INZ maintains a list of currently Accredited Employers who have met requirements for good workplace practices and financial sustainability. They can, therefore, recruit migrant workers without advertising for vacant roles. This category offers a direct pathway to residence after 24 months of holding the work visa.
Those that were granted this visa on previous remuneration of $55,000 pa, retain their pathway to residence on this value.