Immigration News

Essential Skills Work Visa Guide

Essential Skills Work Visa

Want to live and work in New Zealand? If you have a certain skillset, you may qualify for the Essential Skills Work Visa. This guide explains the application process and what to expect.

What is an Essential Skills Work Visa? How long is it valid for?

This temporary visa category is for workers whose skills are in high demand in New Zealand but are not available locally. The Essential Skills Work Visa is valid for one, three, or five years, depending on the skill level of the job.

You may apply for further visas once onshore, but applicants with one-year visas based on low-skilled jobs are allowed to reapply only twice then will be required to leave New Zealand for 12 months before seeking another work visa.

Please note: Due to COVID-19, applications for temporary visas from outside New Zealand are suspended until further notice, unless you are exempt. Get the latest updates from Immigration New Zealand’s news centre.

What are the new rules regarding the Essential Skills Work Visa?

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

Who can apply for an Essential Skills Work Visa?

Applicants must have a full-time job offer from a New Zealand employer:

  • who has been unable to fill that position with a local worker
  • OR for a job that is on an Essential Skills in Demand (ESID) List

If applying under the first criteria, the employer must be able to demonstrate that attempts to recruit talent locally have failed.

All applicants must:

  • Meet “good character” requirements – a police certificate from your country of origin is required
  • Meet “good health” requirements – a medical certificate from your country of origin is required
  • Provide evidence of work experience and qualifications for the job offered

Which jobs qualify as Essential Skills in Demand?

Jobs in health, construction, engineering, tourism, and information technology are generally in demand.

The three ESID lists are based on region and industry:

  • Long Term Skill Shortage List (LTSSL)
  • Regional Skill Shortage List (RSSL), which replaces the Immediate Skill Shortage List
  • Construction and Infrastructure Skill Shortage List (CISSL)

To find out of your skills are in demand, visit Immigration New Zealand’s Skill Shortage List Checker.

How much does the Essential Skills Work Visa application cost?

Application costs will vary, depending on your country of origin and what country you’re in when you apply for your visa. For example, Chinese nationals who are based in Auckland will pay $495 for their Essential Skills Visa application. Also bear in mind that you will have to pay for medical screenings, police records , and possibly translations.

There are no refunds if your application is declined. For country-specific information on application costs, visit INZ’s fees finder.

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

Generally speaking, 90 percent of Essential Skills Work Visa applications are completed within 84 days, though this category is currently closed due to COVID-19.

Pro tip: To reduce your processing time, make sure your application is error-free and includes complete information and all documentation as specified by INZ requirements.

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

You may apply online or via post. To apply for an Essential Skills Work Visa, you need a job offer from an employer who can’t find someone with your skillset locally or an offer for a job that’s listed as an essential skill in demand (ESID).

To apply, send your application, supporting documents, and application fees to Immigration New Zealand.

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 application?

Common reasons for rejection include:

  • An employer’s attempt to recruit locally may not be considered genuine or extensive enough
  • Employers don’t adequately explain the outcome of their recruitment search
  • Applicants may not be able to prove their ability to do the job at the level required
  • Job experience or skills achieved overseas may not match the criteria of the job application and fail to meet the standards required
  • Character requirements are not met
  • Health conditions

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

If you’re considering applying for an Essential Skills Work Visa, you should seek legal advice at the outset. If your visa application is rejected, your fees will not be refunded, and you’ll have to start the entire process over from the beginning.

The Essential Skills category produces a significant number of unsuccessful applications due to applicants not fully understanding or completing the paperwork.

How can I ensure my Essential Skills Visa application is done correctly?

NZIL can review your application and advise you on what evidence you should provide to build the best case. Employers are unlikely to hold a job open for you if you run into difficulty obtaining a visa, so it’s important that all documentation is accurate and up to date to ensure smooth processing for all parties involved.

In our experience, many applicants and employers misinterpret the rules set forth by INZ and fail to meet the requirements.

If you want the best chance of success, don’t leave anything to chance. Engage professional assistance from NZIL and ensure you get it right the first time. Contact us today.

Want to learn more?

For information about other visa types, check out our Partnership Visa Guide and tips on how to navigate the New Zealand Immigration System.