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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. 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 alone to work in New Zealand, most of those are country-specific. In this section you will find only the most relevant aspects of applying for a New Zealand visa, so you can start preparing for your relocation.

You should know that some visas will cost more than others, the Entrepreneur work visa being especially costly, and most applications require you to pay an immigration fee.

The majority of visas follow the same process of applying online, and some requirements are the same for all visa types. Just keep in mind that for some visas applications can have a very short timeframe, and once open, vacancies tend to be filled within the first few days.

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 visas and covers some of the most common ones in more detail. If you wish to know about other types of visas in New Zealand, you can check the immigration website for:

New Zealand’s Work Visa Requirements

Different work visa types may have different requirements, application forms, fees, or procedures. In general, to apply for a work visa in New Zealand you need:

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 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.

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 so 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 easier and faster, and it should not take more than 15 minutes to complete the online form. Alternatively, you can submit the application form that corresponds to your type of visa as well as all the necessary documents, such as your passport, to the corresponding receiving center.

Depending on your visa type, you will be notified if you need to send in your passport or if 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
  • 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 procedure 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 three main temporary work visas in New Zealand:

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

  • 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.

Silver Fern Job Search Visa

The Silver Fern Job Search Visa is for highly skilled young workers, between 20 and 35 years of age. To apply for this visa, you will need to have a genuine intent to search for a job in New Zealand, and you are granted a period of 9 months in the country.

There is a quota of 300 people per year for this visa, and vacancies tend to fill very quickly. The opening date of the application is not always disclosed, so it is a good idea to keep checking the website regularly for the application date.

Applications are made entirely online.

How To Apply

  • Be looking for long-term skilled employment in the country
  • Have recognized qualifications, and:
    • an original of your qualification or certified copy;
    • evidence that your qualification was assessed as part of your application for occupational registration (if applicable);
    • an International Qualifications Assessment (if applicable).
  • Have relevant work experience of at least two years in a comparable labor market.
  • Have enough funds to be able to support yourself in New Zealand—at least 4,200 NZD (2,730 USD).
  • Have a ticket to leave or enough money to buy a ticket home.
  • Speak English at an acceptable level.
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
Silver Fern Job Search 410 275
Partnership/Work to Residence Work Visa 580 390
Entrepreneur Work Visa 3,310 2,220
Working Holiday Visa 190 130
Working Holidaymaker Extension Visa 190 130
Other Work Visas 440 300

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Self-Employment Visas

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 and application process 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.

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 for a period 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) for a period 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.

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 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

Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa
Employees of Relocating Business Resident Visa 
  • You may apply for this visa is your employer’s business moves to New Zealand.
Talent (Accredited Employer) Work Visa 
  • 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 NZD (35 USD) a year. Your employer has to be accredited by the Immigration New Zealand (INZ).
Entrepreneur Work Visa
Long Term Skill Shortage List Work Visa 
  • 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, as long as 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 with 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 which 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 which 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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Updated on: April 29, 2020
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