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Visas & Work Permits in New Zealand
The Guide to Visa Types and Work Permit Requirements
There are many visa types that will allow you to start a new life in New Zealand. Most highly skilled expats choose to relocate for work because New Zealand is actively looking for new talent from abroad. However, New Zealand only approves a handful of visas per country and the timeframe for visa applications is very tight. The visa that applies to you will depend on how long you wish to stay in the country and what type of job offer you have. This guide covers all the steps to obtain residence permits, both temporary and permanent, work visas, skilled worker’s visa, and visas for self-employment.
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While you may read that there are over 80 types of visas to work in New Zealand alone, most of those are country-specific. This means the amount and type of visas approved as well as the requirements vary depending on the country of origin. In this section you will find only the most relevant aspects of applying for a New Zealand visa, so you can start the process immediately.
You should know that some visas will cost more than others, the Entrepreneur work visa being especially costly. Most applications also require you to pay an immigration fee.
The majority of New Zealand visas follow the same process of applying online, and some requirements are the same for all visa types. Just keep in mind that some visas can have a very short application timeframe, and once open, vacancies tend to be filled within the first few days. Some visas in New Zealand are also subject to an immigration point system called “Point Scale.”
Work Permits and Employment-Based Visas
If you wish to get a work permit or employment visa to be able to work in New Zealand, this guide gives you an overview of the different kinds of working visas and covers the most common options in more detail. If you wish to know about other types of visas in New Zealand, you can check the New Zealand Government immigration website for:
New Zealand’s Work Visa Requirements
Different work visa types may have different eligibility requirements, application forms, costs, or processes. In general, to apply for a work visa in New Zealand you need:
- Proof of identity (passport or certificate of identity and two acceptable visa photographs);
- Proof of good health (completed health questionnaire and chest x-ray and a medical examination after arrival);
- Proof of good character (completed character questionnaire, Police Certificates from your country of origin and any country where you’ve lived at least five years since turning 17);
- Proof of being bona fide.
Every document you provide needs to be the original document or a certified copy.
When applying for a visa, you will typically find a guide on the official website that corresponds to each visa type. You are advised to read through this document beforehand to make sure you are on top of every requirement. Then, you want to have each document with you and ready for submission before beginning your application process.
If your visa is subject to a points scale, you can typically find a simulation on the immigration website that allows you to test if you meet the required points to apply. Keep in mind that only an immigration officer can award you points during the assessment of your visa. Read more about this below.
Difficulties Obtaining a New Zealand Visa
In general, it may be difficult to get a work visa in New Zealand due to limited spots or tight deadlines for application. If your country has a set quota, that means applications will open on a specific day. Typically, you will have 59 days from the application date to apply, but this timeframe may depend on your nationality and the country where you are currently residing. But even with this interval, you can expect vacancies to disappear quickly. Be precise and follow the deadline that applies to you.
Once the quota is reached for each country, you can only apply again the following year. For some countries, the quota is as low as 50 people a year while for others the quota is unlimited (Canada, the UK, Japan, etc.). You can check a complete list of work visas for the conditions that apply to your country.
Work Visa Application Process and Form
Much of the process for visa applications is done online through New Zealand’s Immigration website. This online process is easy and fast, and it should not take more than 15 minutes to complete the online form. Alternatively, you can submit the application form that corresponds to the type of visa you chose as well as all the necessary supporting documents, to the corresponding receiving center.
Depending on the visa type you applied for, you will be notified whether you need to send in your passport or you are going to receive an eVisa. This is an electronic visa held in the immigration electronic system that replaces the physical sticker or stamp on your passport. This eVisa applies to the following visa types:
- Student Visa
- Work Visa
- Visitor Visa
- Business Visitor Visa
- Group Visitor Visa
- Partner of a New Zealander Resident Visa
- Dependent Child Resident Visa
To receive an eVisa, you will need to create an online account on the immigration website and continue the application process there. You are advised to print the eVisa letter, and to keep it with you when in the country.
Types of Temporary Work Visas
It is important to know that all work visas in New Zealand are temporary, even the specific visas that can lead to a permanent residence which are covered further in this guide. When talking about a temporary work visa in New Zealand that means these types of visas are not geared towards getting permanent residence.
There are two main temporary work visas in New Zealand:
- Working Holiday Visa, which has a duration of one or two years;
- Essential Skills Work Visa, which allows you to stay between 1 and 5 years depending on your level of skill and the duration of the employment contract;
Essential Skills Work Visa
The Essential Skills Work visa is for skilled workers whose job is listed on the Essential Skills in Demand List. It allows you to work in the country for up to five years, but the duration may depend on your skill level. For a foreigner to fill a job position with this visa, the employer must prove that they could not hire a New Zealander.
How to Apply
To apply for an Essential Skills work visa, you will need the following documents:
- A job offer for a full-time position, and a copy of your employment agreement.
- Your employer to prove that a New Zealander could not be hired for the position.
- An “Employer Supplementary Form” describing your job offer (completed by employer).
- A document proving the necessary qualifications (original or certified copy).
- Occupational registration (if applicable).
You also cannot be subject to a stand-down period (the period when you are required to spend 12 consecutive months outside of New Zealand).
Although this type of visa only intends to fill temporary skill gaps, you may still apply for residence if you gain enough points to qualify for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category.
Other Work Visa Types
To know all the types of visas for working in the country, you can check the complete list of all work visas in New Zealand. If you are unsure which type of work visa is right for you, New Zealand’s immigration website offers a detailed online service which allows you to see your options based on your age, the country where you are from. Besides showing all the options that apply to you, you can also compare up to three types of visas side by side.
Who Qualifies as a Skilled or Highly Skilled Worker in New Zealand?
Your qualifications, skills, and experience will fall on one of five categories defined by the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO).
You are considered a skilled worker if:
- Your occupation is listed in ANZSCO as level 1, 2 or 3, it matches the description for that occupation, and you are paid more than 25 NZD (16 USD) an hour or more (or the equivalent annually).
- Your occupation is listed in ANZSCO as level 4 or 5, it matches the description for that occupation, and you are paid more than 50 NZD (24 USD) an hour or more (or the equivalent annually).
- Your occupation has no corresponding description, but you are paid 50 NZD (24 USD) an hour or more (or the equivalent annually).
How Much Does a Work Visa Cost in New Zealand?
Typically, there are two types of costs associated with work visas: a visa fee, and an immigration levy. However, some countries have higher fees than others, and some may have a fee-waiver agreement with New Zealand, so always check your specific requirements. The visa can be paid online through a Credit Card (Visa or MasterCard).
The visa fee will be different if you are coming from one of the Pacific Countries. No matter which visa type you apply for, the immigration levy equates to 55 NZD (37 USD).
|Work Visa Type||Visa Fee NZD||Visa Fee USD|
|Partnership/Work to Residence Work Visa||580||390|
|Entrepreneur Work Visa||3,310||2,230|
|Working Holiday Visa||190||130|
|Working Holidaymaker Extension Visa||190||130|
|Other Work Visas||440||300|
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You may only be self-employed in New Zealand if you have the right to live in the country permanently or have been granted one of News Zealand’s self-employment visas.
Types of Visas that Allow for Self-Employment
- Working holiday visa
- Entrepreneur Work Visa
- Investor’s Visa
- Post-Study Work Visa (for new graduates who recently completed a qualification in New Zealand)
Partners of New Zealand citizens also have an option to work as self-employed in the country. Keep in mind you can’t be self-employed in New Zealand if you are staying in the country with a Student Visa or a Visitor’s Visa.
The most common visa types to do business in New Zealand are the Entrepreneur Work Visa or Investor Resident Visa. We cover the requirements, application process, and costs for these New Zealand self-employment visas below.
Entrepreneur Work Visa
The Entrepreneur Work Visa is for those who wish to buy or set up their own business in the country. You are allowed to stay and work in New Zealand for a total of three years: one year during the startup phase and then two more years after proving you have set up your business.
To apply for this visa, you will need to meet all the general visa requirements mentioned previously, as well as the following conditions:
- Invest at least 100,000 NZD (65,000 USD) on a business.
- Meet the minimum of 120 points on the Entrepreneur Points Scale.
- Provide a detailed business plan.
- Set up your business within 12 months.
- Take part in an evaluation of the entrepreneur Work Visa Category.
Beware that this visa type can be expensive. Most visas for New Zealand tend to cost from 200 to 600 NZD (130 to 390 USD) overall, but the Entrepreneur Work Visa for most applicants costs 3,365 NZD (2190 USD) in total in fees on top of the 100k NZD (65k USD) you need to invest in the country
Visa for Investing in New Zealand
There are two types of visas that allow you to invest in the country, which will also grant you residence:
- Investor 1 resident visa: If you invest 10 million NZD (6,5 million USD) in the country over the course of three years, you and your family can live in New Zealand indefinitely.
- Investor 2 resident visa: If you are under 65 years of age and you invest 3 million NZD (2 million USD) over the course of four years, you and your family can live in New Zealand indefinitely. However, there is a quota of 400 people for this type of visa.
You may also apply for other types of visas that allow you to invest in the country (e.g., a temporary retirement visa), so check the complete list of visas that allow you to start a business or invest.
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Residency Permits: Temporary and Permanent
In general, all visas in New Zealand are temporary and automatically grant you residence for its duration. If you want to become a permanent resident in New Zealand, you will first have to apply for a temporary residence permit and only later, apply for permanent residence in New Zealand. Beware, that only some visas allow you to bring your spouse and immediate family with you. New Zealand does not have a fiance visa in its migration law.
However, not all temporary visas can lead to residence—there are specific visa types that can be extended and eventually lead to residence. These types of visas are explained below, as well as all the necessary temporary residence permit requirements, steps, benefits, and fees.
Typically, to become a permanent resident you must be 55 or younger and have worked in New Zealand for two years on a temporary visa.
Temporary Visas that Lead to Permanent Residence and How to Apply
- You can apply if you have the relevant skills and experience.
- You must be 55 or younger, a skilled worker, and can claim 160 points on INZ’s point scale for Skilled Migrant Expression of Interest.
- You may apply for this visa if your employer’s business moves to New Zealand.
- You must have relevant skills and talents needed in New Zealand.
- You should be under 55 and have a job offer for a full-time position for two years that pays 55.000 NZD (35.000 USD) a year. Your employer has to be accredited by Immigration New Zealand (INZ).
- You are an entrepreneur or innovator and want to buy or set up a business in New Zealand.
- You have invested at least 100,000 NZD (65,000 USD) in your business, can claim 120 points on INZ’s point scale for entrepreneurs, you meet the business plan requirements, and can read, write, and speak English.
- This visa is for those who have skills and talents needed in New Zealand.
- You must be 55 or younger and your occupation is on the skill shortage list.
- This visa does not come with the option of a family visa.
The application process for each temporary visa type may vary, but, in general, you will need to put in an expression of interest which includes a score point based on your age, work experience, qualification, and the job offer (if applicable). If you are selected, you can then make a full application. Applications are chosen only once a month.
New Zealand Permanent Residency Benefits
As a permanent resident, you have the benefit of being able to live, work, and study in New Zealand, and to travel to and from New Zealand without restrictions. You can also include your partner and dependent children on your visa application if they were included in your original residence application.
How to Get Permanent Residency in New Zealand
What are the requirements for permanent residency? To obtain permanent residency you must live in New Zealand for two years under a residence visa. You must also meet the following requirements:
- Prove your identity with an ID and two acceptable photos.
- Be considered of good character.
- Show evidence that you have met the conditions on your current resident visa.
Show Your Commitment to New Zealand
You can show your commitment to New Zealand in one of five different ways:
- You have spent enough time in New Zealand, for which your travel records will be checked.
- You have New Zealand tax residence status, for which you will need a statement from Inland Revenue and a completed confirmation of tax resident status.
- You have invested in New Zealand, for which you will need evidence such as bank documents or property deeds.
- You have a business in New Zealand that is successful and benefits the country.
- You have established a base in the country (e.g., by owning a home, creating employment, being self-employed, etc.).
Permanent Residence Application Process and Fees
The application process and fees for a Permanent Residence Visa may vary depending on the country you are from, and whether you are applying in your country of residence or in New Zealand.
In general, you will have to fill the application form for a Permanent Resident Visa, and send it along with the required documents to the correct receiving center. You can find this by entering your nationality and country of residence on the official immigration website.
Permanent residence visas cost 210 NZD (140 USD), plus an immigration fee that varies by region. You may also have to pay the receiving center fees and courier fees for your passport to be sent back to you if you cannot collect it yourself.
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