Immigration News

Guide to the Essential Skills Work Visa

Essential Skills Work Visa

The opportunity to live and work in New Zealand remains a dream for many people, but if you have a certain skillset you may qualify for the Essential Skills Work Visa. This visa is meant for workers whose skills are in hot demand in New Zealand and are not available locally. But there are still many caveats to navigate the complex, costly and time-consuming immigration process. This guide outlines the documentation, evidence, and authorisations required to start you on your journey.

Who can apply for an Essential Skills Work Visa?

You can apply for an Essential Skills Work Visa if you:

  • Have a full-time job offer from a New Zealand employer for a job that is on the Essential Skills in Demand Lists (ESID)


  • Have a full-time job offer from a New Zealand employer who has been unable to fill that position with a local worker


  • The employer can demonstrate that attempts to recruit talent locally have failed
  • Meet “good character” requirements – police certificate from country of origin required
  • Meet “good health” requirements – medical certificate from country of origin required
  • Must present evidence of work experience and qualifications for the job offered

How long is the essential skills visa valid for?

The Essential Skills Work Visa is valid for one, three or five years depending on the skill level of the job.

You can apply for further visas while you are onshore, but those with one-year visas based on low skilled jobs can only re-apply twice before they will be required to leave New Zealand for 12 months before seeking another work visa.

Which jobs qualify under the Essential Skills in Demand?

There are several lists of jobs in demand based on region and industry. There are many jobs in Health, Construction, Engineering, Tourism and Information Technology, to name a few. For more details check out:

How much does the Essential Skills Work Visa application cost?

Costs vary greatly depending on which country the applicant resides in, and what country you are in when you apply for your visa.

For example, for applicants who are Chinese nationals who are based in Auckland the essential skills visa costs: $495. For more country-specific information, go to:

How long does it take for the Essential Skills Work Visa to be processed?

90% of applications are currently being completed within 84 days.

What do I need to apply for the Essential Skills Work Visa?

In order to apply for the Essential Skills Work Visa, you need a job offer from an employer who can’t find someone locally with your skillset or a job offer for a job that’s listed as an essential skill on demand.

When should I apply for the Essential Skills Work Visa?

As soon as you have a job offer, you should begin getting your documents in order including, work verification documents, evidence of qualifications, police clearances, and medical and x-ray certificates.

What things do people most often get wrong in their Essential Skills Work Visa?

  • An employer’s attempt to recruit locally may not be considered genuine or extensive enough
  • Employers don’t explain the outcome of their recruitment search
  • Applicants may not be able to prove their level of capability to do the job to the level required
  • Job experience or skills achieved overseas from an applicant may not match the criteria of the job application and fail to meet the standards required.
  • The role as described does not meet the chosen ANZSCO code
  • Character requirements are not met
  • Health conditions

When should I enlist the help of a lawyer for my visa application?

Legal advice should be sought at the outset of considering applying for a visa. If a visa application is rejected, the entire process will have to be started from the beginning.

An immigration lawyer can review your application and advise you on what evidence you would need to show to enable you to create the best case for your application.

How can I ensure my essential skills visa application is done correctly?

If you want the best chance of success for your application, don’t leave anything to chance, engage professional assistance to make sure your application meets all of the criteria for the best chance of success.

What are the new rules coming into force regarding the Essential Skills Work Visa?

  • Job offers will no longer be classified under the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO)
  • Job offers will be judged solely based on salary to determine visa duration
  • Anyone seeking a Work To Residence visa will now be required to earn a minimum salary of in excess of NZ$79,560 if through an accredited employer or $104,000 just based on the role
  • All Employers will need to become accredited through Immigration New Zealand before they can hire overseas workers

The Essential Skills Work Visa needs to be processed smoothly and efficiently for all parties involved. It’s important that all documentation is accurate and up to date to ensure there are no last-minute glitches.

Employers are unlikely to hold a job open for a potential migrant if you run into difficulty in obtaining a visa, so it’s important to get it right the first time. History has shown that many applicants and employers can misinterpret the rules set forth by Immigration New Zealand and fail to meet the requirements.

If you’d like help with your Essential Skills Work Visa application or have any other queries, you can contact the office here.

Looking for advice about other visa types? Check out our guide to the Partnership visa or general tips on how to navigate the New Zealand Immigration system.