Skill shortage Review process

New Zealand competes internationally for skilled workers. Where we require certain skills, we may add them to Essential Skills in Demand Lists (ESID). Workers with skills on the lists will find it easier to apply for temporary work visas and, in the case of long-term shortages, resident visas

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment compiles three skill shortage lists, based partly on suggestions from employers and unions:

  • The Long Term Skill Shortage List
  • The Immediate Skill Shortage List
  • The Canterbury Skill Shortage List.

These lists include skilled occupations that New Zealand employers find it difficult to recruit for. You can search the lists online.

Skill shortage list check | Online tool

Reviewing the lists

We review the Immediate and Long Term Skill Shortage Lists each year.

We review the Canterbury List about three times each year because the skills needed there change often.

When we review a skill shortage list, we decide whether any occupations need to be:

  • added
  • removed
  • moved from one list to another.

If you represent occupational groups like employers, trade unions or industry training bodies and have questions about a review or want to receive updates, please contact us. We don’t respond to enquiries from individuals from this email address.

Contact us on

Criteria for changing the Essential Skills in Demand Lists

Before we add a new occupation to a skill shortage list, we must confirm that:

  • the occupation has a skill classification under the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations at level 1, 2 or 3
  • the industry will train New Zealanders in the occupation
  • the industry will employ New Zealand workers before recruiting overseas workers
  • the shortage is not because current employment terms and conditions make it difficult to hire and retain staff
  • the industry complies with New Zealand employment law
  • there’s evidence that it’s difficult for employers to hire staff
  • the numbers of apprentice or graduate trainees and workers leaving or retiring from the industry have been estimated
  • the necessary qualifications and skills for the occupation are specified
  • the shortage affects more than one employer
  • the shortage for the occupation is significant and can be met by migrants, creating a need for 50 or more work visas each year.

There are further criteria for each specific list.

Long Term Skill Shortage List criteria

For an occupation to be added to this list there must be a local and international shortage in this occupation, and the shortage must affect all New Zealand regions.

Immediate Skill Shortage List criteria

For an occupation to be added to this list there must be an obvious shortage of workers in this occupation throughout, or in certain regions of, New Zealand.

Canterbury Skill Shortage List criteria

For an occupation to be added to this list, there must be an obvious shortage of workers in this occupation in Canterbury.

The Review process

Long Term and Immediate Lists

The Ministry investigates shortages but recognises that affected industries may provide a different perspective and more up-to-date information about specific occupations. When reviewing the Long Term and Immediate Lists we:

  • invite employers, trade unions and industry training bodies to nominate occupations that could be added to, removed from or moved between lists
  • review industry nominations and select occupations for review
  • publish a Preliminary Indicator Evidence Report (PIER) for each reviewed occupation, which sets out data that will help us decide whether the occupation in one of the lists
  • invite employers, trade unions and industry training bodies for submissions supported by evidence about the nature and extent of skill shortages in the occupations under review
  • consult with industry groups, and government agencies and collect any information we need to help us decide on changes to the lists
  • decide which occupations we should include in each list
  • update and publish the lists on our website.

Skill shortage list check

Canterbury List

When we review the Canterbury List we:

  • forecast where and when there will be demand for skilled workers in certain occupations
  • analyse how many beneficiaries, trainees or people from other parts of New Zealand could fill current vacancies
  • consult with a panel of industry representatives in Canterbury.

The Canterbury List also includes occupations from the Immediate and Long Term Skill Shortage Lists that are relevant to the Canterbury rebuild.

Nominating an occupation for review

To nominate an occupation for a review of the Immediate and Long Term Skill Shortage Lists, the occupation should:

  • be listed in the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO)
  • have an ANZSCO skill level 1, 2 or 3 classification
  • need a qualification recognised by the New Zealand Qualification Authority at NZQF Level 4 or above.
  • have the support of at least one industry body or professional association, eg employers, trade unions or industry training bodies
  • be in sufficient shortage to require at least 50 work visas each year.

Where an occupation does not satisfy these criteria employers may use Essential Skills work visa instructions to recruit migrants. This requires a labour market test, to ensure New Zealanders have the first opportunity for work.

Nominations of occupations for the 2017 skill shortage list review closed on 17 May 2017.

ANZSCO classifications
New Zealand Qualification Authority

Making a submission

Submissions on occupations selected for review must be made by a coordinated group like employers, trade unions or industry training bodies.

Submissions should be made on the ESID Submission Form. The example of a submission may be useful as a guide for the information that we are seeking.

ESID Submission Form DOCX 91KB

Example submission PDF 202KB

The Preliminary Indicator Evidence Reports for the occupations selected for review in 2017 are:

Accountant PDF 243KB

Anaesthetist PDF 246KB

Carpenter PDF 166KB

Dental technician PDF 151KB

Dentist PDF 246KB

Fibrous Plasterer PDF 166KB

Hair or Beauty Salon Manager PDF 165KB

Hairdresser PDF 165KB

Joiner PDF 165KB

Medical Laboratory Technician PDF 167KB

Midwife PDF 165KB

Motor Mechanic (General) PDF 165KB

Motorcycle Mechanic PDF 165KB

Other Sports Coach or Instructor PDF 166KB

Panelbeater PDF 165KB

Pharmacy Technician PDF 165KB

Poultry Farmer PDF 166KB

Registered Nurse (Aged Care) PDF 167KB

Registered Nurse (Mental Health) PDF 166KB

Resident Medical Officer PDF 165KB

Roof Tiler PDF 167KB

Solid Plasterer PDF 166KB

Vehicle Painter PDF 165KB

Low Volume Occupations

In addition to the above occupations the Ministry will review the following occupations for which there has been an average of less than eight work visas approved per annum over the last two years.  One of the requirements for an occupation to be added to a shortage list is that there should be at least 50 work visas per annum (although this requirement is not inflexible). 

However there are some historically listed occupations where the numbers of work visas are much less than this level. In some cases demand and economic conditions may have changed since they were added to a shortage list. For others the criteria for adding occupations may have been different in the early stages of developing the shortage lists. 

Given this relatively low level of demand, and the need to ensure the ESID lists remain well targeted to shortage occupations, the Ministry will consider these occupations for removal as a part of the annual review process. 

Other immigration options will still be available, including:

Essential Skills Work Visa

Approval in Principle

Accredited Employer

Skilled Migrant Category

 The occupations with low demand are:

  • Cardiologist
  • Chemical Engineer
  • Forest Scientist
  • Materials Engineer
  • Metal Casting Trades Worker (Foundry Moulder)
  • Ophthalmologist
  • Pathologist
  • Petroleum Engineer
  • Renal Medicine Specialist

A streamlined process is being followed for the review of these occupations because of the low levels of demand and the consequent low impact of their removal. 

Essential Skills in Demand List Review 2017 PDF 267KB

Submissions for these low-volume occupations may be made on the standard submission form above, or by a separate email covering the essential points that you wish to make.

Submissions must comment on the low volumes of work visas.

Include evidence with your nomination/submission

Before making a nomination/submission, be sure it includes:

  • evidence of consultation with employers, employees, trainers and/or interested groups
  • evidence sourced from surveys, administrative data or employees’ feedback