Anyone in New Zealand who is not a New Zealand / Australian Citizen or Resident must have a valid Work Visa / Permit if they wish to work in New Zealand.

Work Policy Objective

The New Zealand Government's objective of the Work Visa/Permit policy is to protect employment opportunities for New Zealand citizens and residents while still allowing:

• New Zealand employers to recruit temporary workers from overseas to meet particular or seasonal skilled needs which cannot be met from within New Zealand; and

• New Zealand to meet its obligations, under bilateral agreements negotiated with the governments of neighbouring countries in the South Pacific, to provide opportunities for citizens of these countries to undertake temporary employment; and

• Visitors to New Zealand to lawfully work while on holiday provided this does not take away employment opportunities from New Zealand citizens or residents; and

• Permission to work to be granted on a reciprocal basis to people entering New Zealand under approved working holiday schemes.

Definition of Employment

Employment is defined in the Immigration Act 1987 as any activity for "gain or reward".

"Gain or reward" includes any payment or benefit which can be valued in terms of money i.e. board and lodging, goods (for example food or clothing) and services (for example transport).

A person is considered to be undertaking employment whether the payment or benefit of the activity is being provided by a New Zealand resident or an overseas resident.

Business visitors who are not considered to be undertaking employment may be granted Visitors Visas/Permits provided they stay no longer than 3 months in any one year. Those who wish to stay longer than 3 months and all other business visitors must apply for a Work Visa/Permit.

"Employment" does not include:

1. Employment as a sale representative in New Zealand for an overseas office;

2. Activity in New Zealand as an overseas buyer of New Zealand goods or services;

3. Business consultations or negotiations in New Zealand concerning the establishment, expansion or winding up of any business enterprise in New Zealand or any matter relating to it by any person engaged in the business overseas or by the director's executives or other authorised representatives of any overseas office with any person engaged in business in New Zealand or with the directors, executives, or other authorised representatives of New Zealand business, or with the government in New Zealand or any of its agencies or with any local authority or other public body; as long as the periods of activity described 1-3 above do not exceed in aggregate three months in any calendar year.

Responsibility of Employers

Under Section 39(1) of the Immigration Act 1987, every employer commits an offence against the Act who allows or continues to allow any person to undertake employment in that employer's service knowing that the person is not entitled under this Act to undertake that employment. The penalty for such an offence is a maximum prison term of 3 months or a maximum fine of $2,000.

Difference between a Visa/Permit

The Immigration Act 1987 defines a visa as:

" endorsement by a Visa Officer in a passport and indicates that the Visa Officer at the time of issuing the visa knows of no reason why the holder of the passport should not be granted permit. A visa is not, nor does it have the effect of a permit".

A visa therefore allows a person to travel to New Zealand. A permit allows him/her to stay here. Permits are only issued in New Zealand. As soon as the permit holder leaves New Zealand, the permit is deemed to have expired. An employee will need a multiple journey Work Visa if they wish to be able to work on their return.

Work Visa

Work Visas may be issued for a maximum of three years. Shortly before this three-year period expires, the applicant may apply for a new Work Visa for three years as long as they meet immigration policy.

The Work Visa will be stamped with the name of the employer, and possibly a particular branch. The Work Visa may also have a job description. If so, the employee may only work at that particular branch and in the position described.

Work Permit

A Work Permit can be valid for a maximum of three years.

Employee must be Qualified for the Position

All applicants must produce evidence that they are suitably qualified by training and experience to do the job offered.

Labour Market Shortage List

Every 3 months NZIS issue a 'Labour Market Shortage List' that lists the current skill shortages in the major towns & cities of New Zealand.

If you have a job offer & are qualified for a position that is included in this list then you do not need to apply for a work visa approval in principle (see below) or pass the 'Local Labour Market Test' (i.e. prove to NZIS that there are no New Zealanders who can fill the position).

Work Visa Approval in Principle

Requests for an approval in principle to recruit temporary workers from overseas may be made by the New Zealand business before the lodgement of applications for work visas. The New Zealand Immigration Service (NZIS) will require the New Zealand business to make a case for the recruitment of workers from overseas if the position is not included in the NZIS 'Labour Market Shortage List'.

The New Zealander employer must provide a include full job description which includes:

• the job title designation, and the type of work duties and responsibilities of the job; and

• details of pay and conditions of employment; and

• any qualifications, training or experience required; and

• the duration of the job; and

• evidence of attempts to recruit staff from within New Zealand and the reasons why New Zealand applicants were not suitable;

• Guarantee of repatriation of employee at the expiry of the Work Visa.

The Immigration Officer must be satisfied there are no New Zealand citizens or residents available who can do the job offered. This may involve seeking labour market advice from others in the particular industry and checking the New Zealand Employment Service for any suitable applications.

Once the Work Visa Approved in Principle has been granted the Work Visa Application may be lodged.

Spouse / De Facto Partner/ Family of Employees

The spouse / de facto partner / family members of the employee will be issued with Temporary Permits / Visas for the same length of time as the employee.

Special Categories of Work Visas/Permits

Long -Term Secondment of Executive Staff

1. An employee at an overseas branch may be seconded to New Zealand to undertake a long-term assignment and be issued with a multiple journey Work Visa authorising a stay of up to a maximum period of three years when:

(a) The employee has been appointed as the New Zealand chief executive of the New Zealand business where the previous chief executive of the New Zealand business had a Work Visa application approved; or
(b) The employee is a member of the senior staff of the New Zealand business where there have been similar applications approved for the New Zealand business.

2. An employee may be granted a further Work Visa/Permit closer to the expiry date of their three year Work Visa/Permit for the full term of their secondment where the New Zealand business confirms:

(a) The employee's commitment to returning to the country of origin at the end of his/her secondment in New Zealand; and
(b) The New Zealand business' guarantee of maintenance, accommodation and repatriation.

3. Senior executives who arrive as visitors and have been seconded to New Zealand are not subject to the conditions outlined in Visitors Visa/Permit policy length of permitted stay.

Business Persons on Short Term Contracts

An overseas employee being seconded to New Zealand to undertake a short-term assignment may be issued with a multiple journey Work Visa authorising a stay up to a maximum of twelve months if:

1. An overseas office has applied to transfer the applicant to undertake a senior or specialist task in its New Zealand office; or

2. The New Zealand business wishes to employ the applicant in a specialist position on a short-term contract.

Working Holiday Schemes: United Kingdom/Canada/Republic of Ireland / Malaysia / Japan / South Korea

New Zealand has reciprocal working holiday schemes with the above countries.

Under these schemes, young citizens of these countries may travel to New Zealand primarily for a holiday and undertake incidental employment during their stay. Holders of Working Holiday Scheme Visas cannot undertake "permanent employment". Unfortunately as "permanent employment" is not defined in he NZIS manual, or in immigration legislation, individual immigration offices have their own interpretation of what this means.

The Japanese Working Holiday Scheme

states that the visa holder cannot work for the same employee for more than 3 months. Whilst the other Working Holiday Schemes do not have this restriction it would be safe to say that a visa holder who has worked for the same employee for the full 12 month validity period of the Working Holiday Visa would be regarded as being engaged in `permanent employment'.

To be eligible for a Work Visa under this scheme, applicants must:

1. Be citizens resident in the above countries at the time of application; and

2. Be aged from 18 to 30 years and not be accompanied by children on the visit; and

3. Satisfy the relevant NZIS branch that the primary intention in coming to New Zealand is to holiday, with employment being an incidental rather than a primary reason for the visit; and

4. Provide evidence of sufficient funds to purchase a return travel ticket; and

5. Provide a minimum of NZ$4,200.00 as available funds for maintenance. (NZ$2,250.00 in the case of Malaysian citizens).

South Pacific Work Schemes

Kiribati Work Scheme

This scheme allows up to twenty workers per year from Kiribati to be issued Work Visas provided the applicant:

1. Is aged between 20 and 45 years; and

2. Is in good health and good character; and

3. And is resident in Kiribati at the time of application.

Applicants may be issued with Work Visas for a maximum of three years.

Their spouse and dependants may join them in New Zealand.

Tuvalu Work Scheme

To be eligible for a Work Permit under this scheme, the applicant must:

1. Be resident in Tuvalu; and

2. Be aged between 20 and 45 years; and

3. Have them nominated for inclusion in the scheme approved by the Government of Tuvalu.

Applicants may be issued with work visas for up to three years.

Fiancé(e) of New Zealand Citizens and Residents

A fiancé(e) may apply for a Work Visa and be granted on arrival with a Work Permit for a maximum of nine months so long as they are seeking entry for the purposes of marriage and the application is supported by the fiancé(e).

Spousal and De Facto / Same Sex Partners of New Zealand Citizens or Residents

May be issued Work Visas/Permits for the length of their intended visit up to a maximum of 2 years from the date of arrival, provided:

1. They are in a genuine and stable relationship; and

2. Their New Zealand spouse/partner is proposing to reside in New Zealand for the same period of time; and

3. The New Zealand spouse/partner supports the application.

Spouses and de facto/same sex partners of New Zealand citizens or residents who have applied for residence, and whose residence applications have been deferred may be granted Work Visas/Permits for the qualifying or deferral period.

Character and Health Requirements

If the Work Visa is for twenty-four months or more, then Medical and X Ray Certificates must be supplied to NZIS along with a Police Certificate from the applicant's country of citizenship.


NZIS charge a fee of $140.00 (or its local currency equivalent) per Work Visa application. The fee for a Work Permit application is $130.

New Zealand has bilateral agreements with various countries whereby their nationals do not have to pay for either visas or permits or both. The following is a list of visa/permit waiver countries:

Country Fee Waiver
Finland Work Visa / Permit
Japan Work Visa (but not Permit)
USA Work Visa (but not Permit)
Iceland Work Visa / Permit
Mexico Work Visa (but not Permit)

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