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Working in New Zealand?

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Serhat Ahmed

Living in New Zealand, from Turkey

"With all of the information that InterNations provided on Wellington, it made my move from Turkey easier than I could have imagined."

Melanie Rasbery

Living in New Zealand, from the USA

"Since I knew about the active expat network in New Zealand, InterNations made moving to Wellington more exciting than it had seemed before."

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New Zealand at a Glance

Working in New Zealand

The economy of New Zealand is characterized by a high level of economic freedom and low corruption rates. The country’s beauty and laidback lifestyle are a big plus as well. We glimpse into New Zealand’s social security and business etiquette as well as the qualifications needed for working here.

The prospect of living and working in New Zealand attracts thousands of people each year. The conditions are not bad. In international comparisons, the country continually ranks among those nations with the highest economic freedom and the lowest rates of corruption. Although dairy products, meat and fruit remain New Zealand’s most competitive exports, its economy also offers expats lots of employment opportunities in other sectors.

The country also remains a popular destination for self-made expats who like the lifestyle and the country’s natural beauty. Although salaries are decent, making big bucks is hardly a primary goal of many expatriates working in New Zealand.

This is also reflected in the sectors in which foreigners working in New Zealand are typically employed. While in places such as Singapore or Hong Kong, most expats are found in finance or engineering, expats in New Zealand are employed in much more diverse fields. These include education, healthcare, and forestry.


There is no single set of skills which will secure you a dream job offer. Professional skills in demand in New Zealand include forestry, engineering, construction, and IT skills. The necessary qualifications for working in New Zealand’s education and healthcare sectors are also beneficial. Many expats in New Zealand only give you one piece of advice: Working in New Zealand requires both a lot of initiative and persistence.  

Immigration authorities regularly publish the so-called Essential Skills in Demand Lists, which enumerate occupational fields with a short-term or long-term shortage of skilled workers. Expats working in one of these fields are not only likely to have fewer difficulties in finding a job, but also have certain advantages regarding the application process for the necessary work permit.

Language Skills

English is by far the predominant language in New Zealand. However, the country actually has three official languages: English, Maori (the Polynesian language spoken by the indigenous people) and — surprising for many — New Zealand Sign Language, which was made the third official language in 2006.

In New Zealand, 98% of the people speak English, whether as their first or second language, and English is used as the main medium of communication. Thus, it is almost self-evident that sufficient knowledge of English is indispensable for anyone who is considering working in New Zealand.

But even those with a decent knowledge of English might need some time to adjust to the distinct local pronunciation. In addition, numerous Maori words have found their way into everyday New Zealand English. Whānau for extended family or kai, meaning food, are just some of them. Many words for flora, fauna, and scenery are also derived from te reo Māori, as are many place names — the pronunciation of their destinations has given many an expat working in New Zealand a challenging time.

Visa Requirements

Work Permits for New Zealand can be issued for a maximum of three years — and in order to apply, you already need a confirmed job offer and a signed employment contract. Even with a contract, there still is some paperwork ahead of you.

First, you need to prove that you possess the qualifications necessary for a specific position. Foreign qualifications usually have to be evaluated by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) before an expat can begin working in New Zealand.

Second, your employer must show that they have searched for a suitably qualified New Zealander before hiring a person from abroad to start working in New Zealand. Third, authorities will administer a Labor Market Test before issuing a foreign employee with a work permit. The procedure may be accelerated if your professional skills are demanded or if you consider working at a local branch of your current company.

Once you have secured your permit, you can move to your new home together with your dependent family members. While spouses of expats working in New Zealand have to apply for a separate work permit, they do not need a confirmed job offer prior to their arrival. For more information on visa requirements and work permits, visit our article on moving to New Zealand.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

InterNations Expat Magazine