How to get a New Zealand work visa

Immigration New Zealand has announced planned changes to work visa rules.  Most of these rules won’t be in place until 2021.  Here is a quick explanation of the changes:

  • a new employer-led visa application process is being introduced that will involve three stages —                      the employer check, the job check and the worker check
  • the new temporary work visa replaces six temporary work visas
  • the level of pay that a job will be used to determine the conditions of the work visa rather than the categorisation or skill level of the job
  • the labour market test is being strengthened for low-paid jobs
  • there will be open access (no labour market test) for high-paid jobs in rural regions and lists in cities
  • the ability for lower-paid workers to bring their families to New Zealand is being reinstated.

­­­­­­­­­If you’re a skilled migrant applying for a New Zealand work visa, you may feel like the process is a job in itself. Navigating all of the visa requirements, conditions, documentation, evidence, categories, and costs can seem a daunting task.

We’ve made this checklist for you as an overview of the process of applying for a skilled migrant visa. However, we recommend you seek assistance from a lawyer when preparing your visa application form.

You can apply for a temporary working visa in New Zealand if you:

  • Have a job offer from a New Zealand employer
  • Are coming for a specific work-related purpose or event
  • Have a partner already in New Zealand, and you want to join them and work
  • Want to go on a working holiday (if you’re between 18 and 30); or
  • Have completed higher level qualifications in New Zealand and want to work.

How do you get permanent residence in New Zealand?

In order to apply for permanent residence you must have held a resident visa for two years.  There are several categories of resident visa:


Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa

People who have the skills, experience and qualifications New Zealand needs to grow its economy can apply for residence under this category. If your application’s successful, you and your family will be able to live in New Zealand permanently.

Permanent Resident Visa

If you’ve been living as a New Zealand resident for two years or more, you may be eligible for a Permanent Resident Visa, which would allow you to travel to and from New Zealand any time you like and still keep your residence while away from New Zealand.

Partner of a New Zealander Resident Visa

If your partner is a New Zealand citizen or resident, you can apply to become a New Zealand resident. Your partner must support your application, and eligible to support to support the application.

Parent Retirement Resident Visa

Parents, who have an adult child who is a New Zealand citizen or resident, can apply to live in New Zealand permanently. To apply, applicants need an annual income of NZ $60,000 plus NZ $1 million to invest for four years, and another NZ $500,000 to live on.

Investor 1 Resident Visa

If you have NZ $10 million to invest in New Zealand over a three-year period, you may be able to come to New Zealand to live.

Investor 2 Resident Visa

Experienced business people who have a minimum of NZD $3 million in available funds or assets can apply for New Zealand residence, and include their partner and dependent children in their application too.

Entrepreneur Resident Visa

This visa is for people who have been self-employed and operated their own business in New Zealand for a set period and made an appropriate level of investment and job creation while holding an Entrepreneur Work Visa , or those who have operated a business for two years on another visa that allows self-employment. If you’re granted this visa, you’ll be able to continue living and operating your business in New Zealand on a permanent basis.

Pacific Access Category Resident Visa

Each year we invite people from Fiji, Kiribati, Tuvalu, and Tonga to register for a ballot that, if drawn, allows you to apply to live in New Zealand.

Religious Worker Resident Visa

Religious workers, who’ve been doing religious work in New Zealand on a valid Religious Worker Work Visa for the last three years, may be eligible for this resident visa. To apply you’ll need an offer of continuing religious work and sponsorship from the religious organisation that’s sponsoring you now.

Parent Resident Visa

You may be able to move to New Zealand to join your adult New Zealand citizen or resident child. You’ll need to register an expression of interest explaining how you’ll meet the requirement.

Your sponsoring child will need to earn a certain level of income at the time you apply and demonstrate they have been earning that for two years prior to the application date

Some resident visa categories has age restrictions so make sure you check your eligibility.


Applying for a Work Visa:

If you want to apply for a work visa you will have to provide either evidence of a current full-time job or a job offer and be registered if your profession demands it. You can do this here.

Before you apply

  1. Make sure your job meets the minimum wage and salary threshold. These thresholds were changed in November 2018, so make sure you check against the updated requirements.
  2. Check the income band of the job.
  3. Gather the employer’s documentation including the fully signed contract, you may also need the employer to show evidence that the job was advertised to the local market and could not be filled by an adequate candidate depending on whether Shortage List requirements are met.
  4. Have proof of your identity (with a valid passport and a photo of a yourself taken within the last six months) and good character (with police certificates from countries you’ve lived in for more than five years since you turned 17). You may also need to provide information about your health, by getting medical certificates or a chest x-ray from a doctor approved by Immigration New Zealand (INZ). All documents not in English, should be translated to English by a professional translator. An immigration lawyer can help you navigate the process. If you are not sure who to ask, read our article Immigration adviser vs immigration lawyer – whose help do you need?
  5. Set up a New Zealand Government RealMe account to upload your digital documents for the online application.

Submitting the visa application

  1. Give your application the best chance of success by getting it checked by a licensed practitioner. Our 90-minute clinic (with immigration lawyer Aaron Martin) is the best way to ensure your New Zealand work visa application is approved.
  2. Submit your paper resident application within six months on the form provided by INZ. Fees and processing times will depend on your location and nationality. You can send your application by post or courier.
  3. If necessary, INZ may ask you for more information to grant you a fair chance to obtain your New Zealand work visa. INZ will let you know about your visa status as soon as it’s decided.

After getting the visa

  1. Once you have your work visa, apply for a tax record number, which you can do through the IRD. You’ll have to give this number to your employer once you have it and use it for all your tax matters.
  2. Be aware of your rights as an employee. Check out our article for all you need to know about migrant worker rights in New Zealand.

Once you have all of the above sorted, you will be well on your way to living and working as a skilled migrant in New Zealand.

The application process for a skilled migrant work visa is very expensive. To ensure the best chance of success we recommend you seek professional advice. Our 90-minute Immigration Clinic appointment is an excellent resource that is designed to help make sure you have all you need to succeed in your application. With over 23 years of experience as an immigration lawyer, Aaron can quickly check your application and let you know if you meet the requirements and have all the appropriate documentation. This can save you thousands of dollars.

Find out more about our 90-minute Immigration Clinic here.

If you’d like help with your skilled migrant visa application, or have any other queries, you can contact the office here.



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